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Private Investigators

Volume 760: debated on Thursday 26 March 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made on the introduction of a system of regulation for private investigators as announced by the Home Secretary on 31 July 2013.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I draw attention to my interests as listed in the register.

My Lords, the Government remain committed to regulation of private investigators and we have made good progress. However, it is important to ensure that the regulations target those who present the greatest risk to the public. We intend to lay regulations as soon as possible in the next Parliament.

I thank the noble Lord for that reply, although it was not very informative. I should remind him and the House that in May 2010 we were within weeks of licensing private investigators when the coalition Government came in and stopped the process in its tracks as part of their agenda of deregulation. I think that the Leveson inquiry showed how ill judged that decision was. After that, the Home Secretary promised that licensing for private investigators would be brought in as soon as possible. She repeated that promise last year and said that it would definitely be by the end of this Parliament. At the same time, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, promised private security businesses that licensing of their businesses would also be introduced by the end of this Parliament. Today is the end of this Parliament and I therefore have two questions to ask the Minister.

First, given that the public’s safety and security is at risk from crooks and fraudsters operating as authentic private investigators, and given that the bodies representing private investigators are demanding regulation, why have the Government not found the time or the inclination to bring in this important regulation? Why have they broken their promises? Secondly—

Secondly, given that two serious promises have been broken, why should anybody believe the Government’s promises in the future?

My Lords, I know that, as a former chair of the Security Industry Authority, the noble Baroness feels passionately and cares deeply about this. Of course, that is one of the points. The Security Industry Authority was introduced in the 2001 Act and set up then. If it was such a no-brainer, of course it could have been done a little earlier than 2010. However, we have gone out to consultation on this and the Home Secretary has made it abundantly clear that in both the instances that the noble Baroness mentioned we intend to legislate. We have not had time to do so but it will be done early in the next Parliament. That is a commitment which we have given and which I am sure the noble Baroness opposite will want to echo.

My Lords, I find the Minister’s answer incredible. The consultation that he referred to was nearly three years ago and it had the highest number of responses of any consultation except that on gay marriage. In fact, the responses were unanimous on that occasion. Does the Minister realise that fewer police officers means that private security is replacing and working alongside the police, and often the public do not know who are the police and who are private security. The Government promised to regulate the companies but have refused to do so. We have an industry whose members are united in wanting regulation to protect the public and to protect their businesses from rogue traders, dodgy companies and criminals—so in whose interests are the Government refusing to act?

We are not refusing to act. In case it has escaped the noble Baroness, lots of other pieces of legislation have been going through during this Parliament. We have not managed to get this regulation in. It is a priority, it is something that we are committed to and it will happen early in the next Parliament.