Seanad debates

Thursday, 25 March 2004

Private Security Services Bill 2001: Second Stage.


Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

11:00 am

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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This Bill marks an important milestone in the development and regulation of the private security industry in this State. The industry encompasses a broad range of security activities and services, including door supervisors — colloquially known as "bouncers" — private investigators, security guards and consultants, as well as suppliers and installers of security equipment. When enacted, it will be the first legislation in our jurisdiction to deal comprehensively with this industry.

The Bill is proof of the Government's commitment to support the industry and its determination to promote high standards and to encourage best practice. The Bill represents a balanced and progressive response to the needs of the private security industry and the concerns of the public who increasingly come into contact with it on a daily basis.

Our society has become more security conscious in recent years for good reason. As part of this process, the work undertaken by the private security industry has broadened into new areas and occupational activities. As a consequence, the industry has much greater direct contact with the public than in the past. Nowadays, we routinely encounter security equipment and security personnel in shops, shopping centres, entertainment venues and leisure facilities and we take it for granted. Moreover, many of the security-related duties that were previously undertaken by "in-house" staff are contracted out to specialised security service providers.

It is in the public interest that everyone involved in the private security industry operates to the highest standards. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and most of us have encountered, experienced or received reports of instances of low standards and unacceptable behaviour. The private security services industry has grown rapidly in recent years and it encompasses an extensive range of occupations and activities. It represents an important area of economic activity and it is an important source of employment, both full-time and part-time.

Major changes in the sector have resulted from the development of sophisticated security-related technologies in recent years. Modern surveillance systems and monitoring equipment have opened up new and improved possibilities for guarding property and protecting people. This is generally to be welcomed and supported. In the wrong hands, however, the manner of installation, maintenance and operation of such equipment could lead to abuses.

These changes point to the need for standards in which we can all have confidence and trust. The aims of the Bill, therefore, are promotion of consumer confidence and enhancement of the quality of service provided. The Bill will help achieve these aims, put the industry on a sound footing for the future and help to root out those who bring the sector into disrepute. The private security industry appreciates and supports our efforts in this regard.

The suggested framework for a statutory regulatory system, which is at the heart of the proposals in the Bill, was set out in the 1997 report of the consultative group on the private security industry. This was a high level group which brought together representatives of employers and employees in the private security industry, key Departments, the Garda and other relevant bodies. The consultative group's report acknowledges the problem of low standards, which is often related to a lack of training, poor working conditions and a high level of staff turnover. Furthermore, low pay in parts of the industry leads to abuses of the social welfare system and non-compliance with the tax code. The minimum wage did not apply when the consultative group reported.

The activities of companies of dubious origins, with links perhaps to criminal or paramilitary groups, have also given rise to concerns. I do not suggest these are widespread problems but they exist and it is regrettable that the high standards of reputable companies in the private security services industry can be undermined by less scrupulous operators and criminal elements. The industry must, because of the nature of its work, adhere uniformly to high standards of service, responsibility and accountability. There cannot be competition between the good and the bad where the bad undercuts the good at the expense of public confidence in private security.

This is the background against which the group concluded that the scope for voluntary self-regulation had been exhausted. The group recommended the establishment of a statutory body in its place to introduce, control and manage a comprehensive licensing system for the industry and to set and maintain appropriate standards. The group considered that this body could be established on a self-funding basis. The group's report and recommendations recognised a need for consistently high standards within the industry, adequate selection and training of staff and overall compliance with legislation in areas such as taxation, social security, company law, and health and safety standards in the workplace.

The Bill seeks to give effect to the principal recommendations of the consultative group. Essentially, it provides for the setting up of a statutory body to be called the Private Security Authority to control and supervise individuals and firms which provide security services and to maintain and improve standards in the provision of those services. One of the authority's immediate priorities will be to introduce and operate a licensing system and maintain an up-to-date and easily accessible register of all licensees. In the longer term, the aim will be to improve industry standards and delivery of the services concerned.

I will focus on the Bill's main provisions to give Senators an appreciation of its scope and an understanding of how the proposed system of regulation will work in practice. Under the commencement provisions in section 1, it will be possible to apply the Bill's provisions to sectors of the industry on a phased basis. I envisage that the licensing requirement will apply initially to door supervisors and security guards and be rolled out subsequently to other sectors. That will help to ensure a balanced work programme for the authority. I am sure it will have its own views on this, of which I will take due account when drawing up the relevant commencement orders.

Section 2 is important because it contains the definitions which determine the scope of the Bill. I draw Members' attention specifically to the definition of "security service" which is defined as a service provided by a private security employer or any of the persons set out in the list which follows in the course of an employment or as an independent contractor. This means that both private security companies and the individual staff members who provide security services must be licensed. It is not good enough that only the employer is licensed, the employees must be licensed also.

Section 2 also contains definitions of several categories of persons providing security services. These include "door supervisor", "installer of security equipment", "private security employer", "security guard" and "security service". The definition of "person" in this context includes natural persons, partnerships and companies.

A number of exemptions to the licensing requirement are set out in section 3. These include members of the Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, authorised officers under the Air Navigation and Transport Acts or staff of a Department or State agency while undertaking official duties. Apprentices employed by a person providing a security service are also excluded. Additional exemptions may be made by means of regulations under subsection (2).

The establishment of the Private Security Authority which will be independent in the exercise of its functions is at the heart of the Bill. This is provided for in section 6. Provision is made in Schedule 1 for the establishment, if necessary, of advisory committees and the appointment of whatever consultants or advisers the authority considers necessary. The Schedule also provides for accountability of the chief executive to the Committee of Public Accounts and other Oireachtas Committees.

Provisions on the membership of the authority are set out in section 7. Members will be drawn from a broad range of relevant interests but it will not be possible to accommodate all such interests on a ten member authority. The advisory committee structure that I mentioned will, however, provide a vehicle for accommodating interests that cannot be accommodated on the authority.

The principal functions of the authority are set out in section 8. In general, it will control and supervise persons providing security services with a view to maintaining and improving standards in the provision of those services. It will grant and renew licences to persons within the industry and, where appropriate, suspend or revoke licences. It may also specify standards to be observed in the provision of security services by licensees and qualifications or training requirements for the grant of licences. Standards and qualification requirements will be implemented by means of regulations made by the authority with the consent of the Minister under section 51.

Sections 9 to 12 deal with the staffing of the authority and production of strategic plans. The authority must put in place and administer a system of investigation and adjudication of complaints against licensees. The carrying out of such investigations will be an important task of the new authority.

Section 13 empowers the authority to investigate any security services being provided by any person. It may request information relevant to an investigation from any person and also request a person to appear before it with a view to furthering the investigation. If these requirements are not complied with, the authority may apply to the District Court for an order requiring compliance. The court may treat a failure to comply with such an order without reasonable excuse as a contempt of the court.

Under section 14, the authority may appoint members of its staff to be inspectors subject to terms and conditions determined by it. Each inspector shall, on appointment, be given a warrant which he or she shall produce when requested. Inspectors will require certain powers of entry and inspection for the purpose of obtaining information on any matter under investigation by the authority. Section 15 makes provision for this. Refusal to comply with any requirement of an inspector will be an offence.

It will be important that the Minister and the Houses of the Oireachtas be kept informed about the authority's activities. For this reason, section 16 requires the authority to report to the Minister each year before 30 September and the Minister to lay copies of the report before each House of the Oireachtas.

In the interests of transparency, and to avoid possible conflicts of interests, section 17 makes provision for a declaration of interests by the chief executive, members of the authority or advisory committees and staff, including consultants and advisers. Section 18 prohibits the chief executive, members of the authority, members of staff of the authority and others from disclosing information obtained in the course of their duties. A person who discloses such information will be guilty of an offence.

Details of the licensing system and how it will work are set out in Part 3 of the Bill. As mentioned, the licensing requirement will apply to private security employers and all persons providing the security services referred to in section 2. For the purposes of the Bill, a private security employer is defined as a person who employs staff whose principal function is to provide security services for persons other than the employer, for example, a company specialising in the provision of security guards or door supervisors must have a licence since the company's business is to provide a security service for persons other than that employer. On the other hand, a retail outlet or licensed premises which employs its own security staff is not a private security employer for the purposes of the Bill and does not, therefore, require a company licence. A licence must be held by all individuals providing a security service as defined in section 2. All security guards and door supervisors must individually hold a licence, irrespective of whether he or she is employed by a private security employer, by a person who is not a private security employer or is self-employed. This means that "in-house", contracted and self-employed security staff are covered. I believe this approach is necessary to ensure high standards apply to all security guards and door supervisors.

Section 21 sets out the conditions for obtaining a licence to provide security services. Application forms must be accompanied by references as to the applicant's character and competence, as well as the prescribed fee. The authority may require an applicant to furnish such additional information as it may consider necessary, including certification by a senior member of the Garda Síochána, and may require verification of any information by affidavit. Investigations or examinations may also be undertaken regarding an applicant's character, financial position and competence.

In the case of companies and partnerships, the information required will relate to directors and partners respectively, as well as any manager, secretary or other officer of the entity concerned. An individual who occupies any of these positions and is also directly involved in providing a private security service will require an individual licence.

Section 22 provides that the authority may grant or refuse to grant a licence. It shall refuse to issue a licence where the applicant is not a "fit and proper person" to provide a security service or does not comply with requirements under the legislation. In the case of companies and partnerships, the conditions I have outlined apply to directors and partners, respectively, as well as to any manager, secretary or other similar officer of the entity concerned. This section also provides that a licence does not confer any right of property and that it may not, inter alia, be transferred or mortgaged.

Section 23 provides for the renewal of licences. Section 24 contains tax clearance provisions while section 25 specifies documents to accompany certain applications. An application by or on behalf of a company must be accompanied by a certificate of incorporation under the Companies Acts and dated not earlier than four weeks before the date of application. Where business is carried on under a business name, an application must be accompanied by a certificate of registration under the Registration of Business Names Act 1963.

Section 27 provides that the authority may, in certain circumstances, refuse to renew a licence; suspend a licence for a specified period; or revoke a licence. Such action would arise where false or misleading information had been supplied; where the licensee was no longer a fit and proper person to provide a security service; or where provisions under the legislation had been contravened. The procedures to be followed by the authority when it proposes to refuse to grant or renew a licence, suspend a licence for a specified period or revoke a licence are set out in section 27. A licensee might wish to apply for a variation in the kind of security service to which the licence relates. This scenario is provided for in section 28.

Among the important functions of the authority will be the issuing of identity cards to licence holders. Each licensee must have the identity card in his or her possession when providing the security service and, on request, produce it for inspection by a member of the Garda Síochána, a designated member of the staff of the authority or any person for whom the licensee is providing a security service. Detailed provisions on identity cards are set out in section 29.

Section 30 provides that certain categories of licensees to be determined by the authority must wear an identity badge containing the licensee's licence number when providing a security service. The aim of the provision is to facilitate identification of the individuals concerned where the need arises, for example, in the making or investigation of a complaint. Sections 31 and 32 deal with duplicate licences and identity cards and the surrender of licences and cards, respectively.

To provide ready access to the list of licensees, section 33 requires the authority to establish and maintain a register to be known as the private security register. The register will be kept at the offices of the authority and a copy will be supplied to every Garda station. This will enable users or intending users of private security services to confirm that a provider is registered to provide the service concerned. The register will be updated and published each year.

In the context of vetting licence applicants or licensees, section 34 provides that the authority may request the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána to provide any information required for the due performance of its functions. The section also provides that the Commissioner shall comply with any such request.

Section 35 requires a licensee, on request, to produce the licence for inspection to a member of the Garda Síochána, a designated member of staff of the authority or any person for whom the licensee is providing a security service under the licence. Where the licensee is a company, the licence shall be displayed in a conspicuous place in the company's registered office.

In so far as offences are concerned, section 36 requires an applicant for a licence or a licensee who has been convicted of an offence, or against whom proceedings are pending, to notify the authority of the conviction or the proceedings in the prescribed manner and within the prescribed period. It is essential for the purposes of the Bill that the provider of a security service shall not provide such a service without a licence.

Section 37 prohibits a person from advertising security services unless he or she is licensed. Section 38 makes it an offence to employ a person who does not hold a licence. It will, however, be a defence to prove that the person providing the security service had produced a licence or identity card to the defendant.

An effective complaints procedure is an essential requirement in a legislative measure of this type and provision in this regard is made in section 39. A person may make a complaint of misconduct against a licensee provided that it is made in good faith and not frivolous or vexatious. If, following investigation, the complaint is upheld, the authority may take appropriate action. The authority's options range from revocation of the licence to the issuing of a caution or advice to the licensee concerned.

In addition to a complaints procedure, a proper appeals system is also essential. Section 40 provides for the establishment of a second body to be called the Private Security Appeal Board which will hear and determine appeals against decisions of the authority. An applicant or licensee may appeal against any decision of the authority to refuse to grant or renew a licence, suspend or revoke a licence or take action on foot of a complaint under section 39. Details of the composition and operation of the appeal board and the procedures for handling appeals are set out in Schedule 2. Section 41 makes provision for an appeal to the High Court on any question of law arising from a determination by the appeal board.

Part 6 of the Bill relates to the provision of security services in the State by persons who hold licences from comparable licensing authorities in other member states. The right of establishment is set out in Article 43 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community. According to Article 43, restrictions on the establishment of branches or subsidiaries by nationals of any member state in the territory of any member state are prohibited. Freedom of establishment also includes the right to take up and pursue activities as a self-employed person and to establish and manage companies. Article 49 of the same treaty prohibits restrictions on the freedom to provide services within the Community by nationals of member states. National regulations are, therefore, not permitted to hinder the rights of establishment and freedom to provide services. The Court of Justice of the European Communities has made this clear in successive rulings. Member states may retain their domestic laws but these cannot be used to restrict the provision of services from elsewhere in the Community. Many of the services in which the private security industry is involved, including transportation of works of art or high value goods, require the crossing of national frontiers.

A transnational dimension can also arise where a company in one member state wishes to tender for a private security contract in another or where an individual applies for a job in one member state having acquired work experience or a qualification in another. Part 6 contains a set of procedures which will permit a person — referred to in the Bill as a "relevant person" — who holds a licence from a comparable authority in another EU member state — referred to as a "corresponding authority" — to provide a security service in the State. A number of safeguards are included in Part 6 to ensure persons who would not qualify for an Irish licence due to criminal convictions or inadequate qualifications cannot circumvent our standards by procuring, by whatever means, a licence to provide a security service from another member state. This matter was discussed on Committee Stage in the Dáil.

Section 44 provides that relevant persons must inform the authority of convictions before providing a security service in the State. Section 45 provides that the authority may, if satisfied that a relevant person is not or no longer a fit and proper person to provide a security service, prohibit that person from providing the service. Schedule 3 modifies the Bill in its application to relevant persons.

Part 7 contains miscellaneous provisions. Section 48 deals with offences and empowers the authority to bring and prosecute summary proceedings for an offence under the Bill. Section 49 contains provisions of a procedural nature which relate to the receipt of notifications or notices while section 50 specifies when decisions of the authority take effect.

It is neither possible nor appropriate to make provision for detailed implementation of all aspects of the licensing system in a Bill such as this. The authority will have a crucial role to play in establishing the categories of licences to be issued, the forms of licences and identity cards, the qualifications required for particular categories of licence and related issues. Section 51 provides for the making of regulations to deal with these detailed issues.

It is not feasible to bring the entire licensing system into operation on a set date. I envisage a phased introduction of the new requirements which will avoid bottlenecks. I want to ensure there is no unjustified interruption of legitimate business when the new provisions come into force. Section 52 contains certain transitional provisions to facilitate a smooth entry into force of the new licensing system.

Schedule 1 provides for various procedures of the authority to deal with the appointment of advisory committees, consultants and advisers, meetings of the authority and the accountability of its chief executive to the Committee of Public Accounts and other Oireachtas committees. Part 1 of Schedule 2 provides for the establishment of the Private Security Appeal Board and related matters, including appointment of the chairman, procedures of the board, reports to the Minister and the declaration and disclosure of interests. Part 2 contains details of the operation of the appeals system. As I mentioned, Schedule 3 modifies the Bill as it relates to relevant persons.

As one hopes, the Bill is being introduced with the active involvement and support of the private security services industry. It reflects the clear public interest in the statutory regulation of the industry. It has had a long gestation and been considered over an extended period. The time has come to act decisively to conclude the process of consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas. If modifications to the legislation are required, they can be made in the context of a system which is up and running. The time for consideration by the Houses is fast running out.

I have good reason to state there is significant potential for people to abuse the facade of security services to conduct extortion rackets. Some publicans have found themselves facing groups presenting as would-be applicants for door work while conveying the very clear message that if they are not taken on, the publicans will encounter a great deal of trouble. People are using the façade of security services to extract money from legitimate businesses. This is a serious state of affairs and is not an exaggeration. Dark forces within our society have used the veneer of security services to extort money and engage in illegal activities, including, I regret to say, trading in drugs. This legislation is urgently needed.

I am confident that the provisions of the Bill, when enacted, will serve to enhance the standing and image of the private security industry, provide quality assurance for customers and reassure the public that high standards will be applied and maintained. I commend the Bill to the House.

Sheila Terry (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister. I also welcome this Bill. The private security area has been in need of regulation for some time. The Minister said this is urgently needed. Why has it taken so long? Nonetheless, it is welcome now and I hope it will progress quickly after it is passed by this House.

The private security area has grown significantly and we see it every day, whether it is at public houses, clubs or in the form of security cameras. The area certainly requires regulation. The Bill has its origins in a Private Members' Bill tabled by former Deputy, John Farrelly, and I welcome the fact that the Minister saw merit in it. I note that the report of the consultative group of the private security industry was presented in late 1997. It has taken a long time to get to this stage and it is proper that we should deal with the matter as speedily as possible.

I welcome the proposed establishment of a private security services authority to regulate and police the industry. Under this, training and proper standards will be enforced. However, legislation is only as good as the level of enforcement. We have seen that much legislation is not enforced in practice. We will be wasting our time if we do not have good enforcement in this area. It is vital that the Minister follows up on this to ensure proper enforcement.

I turn to another matter related to enforcement, namely happy hours and drinks promotions. As I understand it, these have been outlawed under the terms of the Intoxicating Liquor Acts. However, they are still going on. One need only walk to the end of Kildare Street to see a sign advertising a happy hour. Our children tell us that they are still being given free and promotional drinks in pubs. This is wrong. Where is the enforcement?

This Bill will not be worth the paper it is written on if we do not follow it through with enforcement. People will adhere to the law if they fear the consequences of failing to do so. We need proper sanctions to ensure people adhere to the letter of the law. Small sanctions, such as imposing fines of €100 or €500, are not a sufficiently strong deterrent to ensure a person does not commit the crime again. There was mention of what action would be taken against those who do not adhere to this legislation; serious penalties must be imposed on them. While closing an establishment is well and good, any financial penalties imposed must be heavy enough to make this work properly.

I have a few minor concerns about the Bill. The Minister may answer them today, or I may address them by proposing amendments on Committee Stage. The Bill does not make clear that members of the Garda or Defence Forces will be excluded from participating in this type of work. There are exemptions to this. We must ensure that no conflict of interest exists. Members of the Garda and Defence Forces should not be involved in this type of work as it could lead to a conflict of interest. I seek clarification from the Minister on this.

I am also concerned about the potential for criminals to be actively involved in this line of work. While the Bill mentions that criminals should not be involved, it is not good enough to say that a former convict must declare his past experiences. This is much too loose. We could learn lessons from the manner in which the Minister for Transport has dealt well with this issue in the taxi industry. Former criminals can no longer obtain taxi licences. We should examine how this regulation has been implemented and use the same system to ensure criminals, who may pose a danger to members of the public, are not involved in this industry.

I asked my son for his comments on this. His generation is the one that most encounters bouncers — "door supervisors" is the correct term — and they experience difficulty with them. It will be helpful when bouncers wear identification. They will be identifiable and will realise that someone can take their number and report them. Young people are only allowed into a club at the discretion of the door supervisor. This is not dealt with well. For example, young people are judged on their clothes or even their footwear — they must wear shoes to gain admittance. This is ridiculous in this day and age. Many young people, particularly students, do not even possess a pair of shoes. A good pair of runners can cost much more than a pair of shoes. This can lead to discrimination. In the recent well-publicised Anabel court case, we heard of a young man who was not allowed into the night-club and stayed outside for several hours while his friends were inside. This occurs on many occasions. This Bill will be helpful to young people who feel they are discriminated against.

While I will table amendments on Committee Stage, I welcome the Bill. I would like to see it dealt with as speedily as possible.

Photo of Tony KettTony Kett (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Bill. I promise that I will say nothing about the fact that the Minister is once again in the Seanad. This Bill will set up a private security authority to supervise and monitor the industry. The main function of the authority is to operate a licensing system for the providers of the services. I hope this will improve standards and give confidence both to those involved in the industry and the public.

The security service is important in terms of what it gives to the economy. Its growth in recent years has been enormous.

It behoves us to look at some form of regulation for the future. As the Minister said, society has in recent times undoubtedly become much more security conscious. One can now go nowhere without some form of security system looking over one's shoulder, whether while filling up with petrol or going to the shops. The industry has recently broadened into a whole new range of services. As the Minister noted, because of the times in which we live, many of the security-related services previously undertaken by in-house staff must now be contracted out to professional security services. I read somewhere that the business now contributes some €250 million to €300 million to the Exchequer in any given year, a phenomenal sum.

There have been significant changes in the sector, including great development in sophisticated technologies such as modern surveillance systems and other monitoring equipment. As the Minister also said, such equipment, which can stick its nose anywhere, can be seriously abused if it falls into the wrong hands. It is right that we should now be setting standards and regulations at a time when the industry is progressing and modernising itself. In doing so we are giving confidence to those operating security services.

An integrated licensing system will also sort out the good from the bad. As the Minister said, there are cowboys operating in the industry, although most of those involved are good people doing a fine and important job. The licensing system will also safeguard people working in the private services companies. I know of a man working for such a company who fell victim to a very dangerous situation as a result of which he was traumatised. As he worked only part-time and was moonlighting, the company walked away from him. The new system will hopefully regulate in such areas.

There are more than 400 people in the security business, employing nearly 25,000 people. That it has not been regulated up to now is probably why we have seen some terrible deeds carried out. The poor old bouncer seems to be the butt of everyone's displeasure. On national television, we have seen by means of CCTV cameras where bouncers have used the fist in the first instance because they are not trained to do otherwise. We have seen a terrible cost arise from that in the recent past. Up to now, it seems that the meaner the bouncers look, the bigger, tougher and the more physical and verbal they are, the more likely they are to be employed. Some years ago, RTE screened a programme on bouncers which showed them in a very poor light.

The legislation brought to this House by the Minister in the past few months has had a common thread running through it. It has included the illicit trafficking at sea Bill, the joint investigation teams Bill, the public order Bill and the liquor licensing Bill. Such legislation has all had the public interest at its core. The common thread unfortunately relates to drink and drugs. Many of the Bills brought through the House by the Minister in recent times will, when they begin to take effect, have major benefits for society.

Being a doorman is not an easy job. The individual works in a very dangerous environment, faced with drunk and unruly people, perhaps someone trying to show off to a girlfriend, or whatever. The doorman must make a split-second decision, either to confront such people outside, or allow them in and then confront them.

That doormen or bouncers have not up to now been trained is reprehensible. They are dealing with dangerous situations without any training. Looking at section 8(2)(f) of the Bill, I wonder whether bouncers will have to undergo training in order to acquire a licence. The section states that "without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), the authority may, and where required, shall, specify qualifications or any other requirement including requirement as to training". Training should form a serious element of all this, and should almost be mandatory. The report highlighted the need for a comprehensive standard training programme to be one of the criteria for obtaining a licence. Fire training should form part of that programme. In the past we have all seen the dreadful outcome of fires, the Stardust fire being the one that springs to mind. In that instance, not alone was the security element not intact, but security people had chained the doors at the request of management because people were gaining free entry. Fire training is essential for security staff, along with first aid skills and drug awareness training. We are told, and perhaps Senator Terry can also tell us, that discos are hives of drug use.

Sheila Terry (Fine Gael)
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I have no experience myself.

Photo of Tony KettTony Kett (Fianna Fail)
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It seems that drugs are sold in discos all the time. If a doorman, or whatever he might be called, were trained in all these areas, he would be confident in his ability to do the job, and the venue patrons would be equally confident there are people working there trained to a standard which makes patrons feel safe. In this way the situation would be much improved.

The right of recourse to the authority for a person who feels aggrieved is also central to the Bill's effectiveness. Conditions must be put in place to allow that right to be substantiated. Security people must be easily identifiable, although in some situations, such as those involving drugs, that is not desirable — someone going about with a "bouncer" or "security staff" sign on his forehead will not catch drug dealers. However, if a person felt that treatment by a door person who might need to use some physical force turned out to be too rough, he or she should be able to complain about the doorman by name, rather that referring to "the big fellow at the door". There is also a need for objective evidence. If it is a case of a security man's word against that of an individual, that will not work. CCTV must be a feature, as it has more and more become. We saw that unfortunate incident in Cork last year, when a young man died, and the CCTV coverage of the incident was awesome, to say the least.

Senator Terry alluded to the Garda. The Garda, the Defence Forces and by and large the prison officers are a feature in all of this. I am told that quite a few of them moonlight in the security area. I am not suggesting that is bad, as they are entitled to moonlight in their own time. However, there is a section of the Act which suggests that a garda can enter a premises, talk to an individual and insist on a security work licence being shown. If a garda approaches a colleague who happens to be moonlighting, the garda will not, with the best will in the world, be as enthusiastic about the job as he or she might be if it were I or someone else he was approaching.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Gardaí will not be entitled to do that.

Photo of Tony KettTony Kett (Fianna Fail)
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That settles that. I welcome the Bill. It is another advance over a range of issues in terms of how we live our lives. It is unfortunate that we must bring in so much legislation to regulate society and to protect ourselves from ourselves.

Photo of Joanna TuffyJoanna Tuffy (Labour)
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I welcome this legislation because, as the Minister and other Senators have said, there is rising public concern about the private security industry and some of the individuals involved in it. Bouncers, private investigators and persons engaged in surveillance have operated in an unregulated fashion, making the industry particularly attractive to criminal elements. It is important this legislation is quickly brought into place. I note the Minister said that the private security industry itself supports this legislation. Many bouncers acknowledge they work in a grey area and are afraid of breaching the boundaries of the law. Hopefully, this legislation will make matters clearer for them. Making the industry more accountable is in their interest.

While I welcome the broad terms of the legislation, a number of modifications are desirable. Some of them may have been raised in the Dáil and, if the Minister did not take them on board, he may look at them again. There should be a requirement that the application for a licence to provide security services be advertised in newspapers with nationwide circulation. The public has an interest in the granting of licences to persons, who on foot of receipt of a licence will have significant powers and control for financial gain. The public must have the right to submit an objection to any application in writing to the authority.

On Committee Stage I intend to table an amendment to section 21(3). It indicates that the authority may "require verification by affidavit or ... require the applicant to supply a certificate by a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent" in an application. The verification of all facts and details contained in an application for a licence is critical. A certificate from a superintendent of the Garda must be a mandatory requirement. The precise contents of the certificate may be a matter for subsequent regulation. However, if the requirements are not mandatory, the vetting procedure is rendered toothless. To ensure this mandatory requirement, the section should be amended by deleting the word "may" and inserting "shall".

Section 21(4) covers the use of limited liability companies in the security industry. Generally speaking, this is a perfectly legitimate operation for security companies. However, when accidents or assaults occur, the victim can have difficulty in establishing which company is culpable. It is also often impossible to identify the name of the rogue bouncer. A company providing security to a venue will frequently be a shelf company making it impossible to ascertain the beneficial owner. In the case of a body corporate applying for a licence under Part 3, an affidavit of verification should be mandatory, compelling the disclosure not just of the directors and company secretary but of the beneficial owners. Directors' names are already readily ascertainable from a company office search. This legislation will only work if it strictly imposes accountability and has a competent system for enforcement of its provisions and identification of the various people involved.

The security industry is a big business that generates much income. In the public perception, it operates in a twilight zone closely allied to criminality. If a sworn declaration must be given to the private security authority at the time of application for a licence, it creates a clear signal that the legislation means business and those who control and profit from the industry can expect to account for any wrongdoing that occurs. I urge the Minister to consider amending section 21 subsections (3) and (4) so that there will be a real prospect of raising standards, not alone by vetting people in the industry, but by vetting those in control and ensuring criminal elements are excluded.

Section 23, on the renewal of licences, does not provide for a time limit. In the absence of regulations, I recommend that licences be renewed annually. A minimum time within which such a renewal can take place can be specified in section 23. I also propose that wheel clampers are incorporated into the provisions of the Bill. As Senator Terry said, this legislation will only be as good as its enforcement mechanisms. It is vital that sufficient resources are given to the authority to carry out its investigating functions under sections 13 to 15, inclusive. Resources to train its personnel to an adequate standard must be provided. The authority must be in a position to retain sufficient numbers of inspectors to police the operation of the legislation. Can the Minister confirm his commitment to ensuring the private security authority is adequately financed to fulfil its functions?

12:00 pm

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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I welcome the Minister. I intended to be critical of this Bill's long gestation, considering the report on the area was published in 1997. However, having heard the Minister speak on the Bill, I realise it is far better to have moved slowly and carefully with this legislation and its phased introduction.

The need for legislation in this area is now much greater, particularly as some criminals use private security as a facade for extortion. The establishment of make-believe services is one that has come to light in this debate. I was unaware until recently the degree to which this was influenced by the drug trade. In 1960 when I opened my first supermarket, I was responsible for using a similar facade. I discovered shoplifting was occurring and, as I did not know of such things as detective agencies, I invented my own. Little signs were placed around the store stating that the premises were guarded by the IDA, the non-existent Irish Detective Agency. I then received a warning from one security company that whoever the IDA were, they might be criminals. Mea culpa.

Going through a Swiss airport recently, I was stunned to see various kinds of surveillance equipment for sale. I understand this is illegal in many countries. However, sale of such equipment was permitted in the airport to those who would not use it in Switzerland. These included items such as pens and tape recorders that were hidden in furniture. However, technology is moving so fast that such items are obsolete, as surveillance can now be carried out from some distance. Whatever happens in the private security area, we must be protected against the abuse of such undetectable technology.

I am also impressed by the increased need for this legislation because of the criminal activity that exists in the industry.

Before I visited Baltimore in Maryland four or five years ago, a garda mentioned to me that he was familiar with some of the crime statistics for that city. I am not sure but I think he said there had been 365 murders the previous year, compared to 49 in Dublin. I do not want to be accountable for the exact numbers but think that is what I remember. When I walked around shopping centres in Baltimore, I was surprised that there were armed security people, most of whom were men, on the door of every shop, including boutiques, regardless of size. It was a reminder that we need a Bill to control the private security sector. We have no way of knowing who is responsible and what controls there are in that area.

I notice in the Bill that the strategic plans of the authority being established will be laid before both Houses. I would like to ensure everything, including the strategic plans, is made available to the public in order that we can investigate quite easily. I am not sure that I was able to check this. Senator Tuffy mentioned that a newspaper circulating in the area was being used. I hope technology such as the Internet and all other electronic means of communication will be used also. If we are to ensure the system works, we have to earn the confidence of the public and provide for the openness and transparency it demands of the authority and its plans, as well as of the security companies established.

The Bill which has been needed for a long time deserves to be supported. It will be needed to a greater extent in the future than in the past. I congratulate the Minister on introducing it and I am sure that he will amend it if it needs to be amended in any way. He has proved in the past that he is willing to consider and accept amendments. Although the Bill has not been initiated in this House, I am quite sure the Minister will listen to any amendments tabled by Senators.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I welcome the response the Bill has received from Members of the Seanad. I thank Senators for their broadly supportive approach to the Second Stage debate. As I said, it is a matter of considerable urgency. As Senator Terry said, it is one thing to legislate but something different to produce results on the ground. It is an absolute certainty that if we do not produce legislation, we will not do the job. I accept her point that the production of the legislation alone does not guarantee that the job will be done.

A great deal of good can flow from this legislation if the proposed security authority works well, sets about its work in a sensible manner and has sufficient resources to carry out its functions. The working group study on which the Bill is primarily based stated the authority should be designed to be self-financing. The Government intends to provide for this. It is clear that in its initial stages it will have to be given some seed capital with which to get going. We have to contemplate how much funding will be necessary, the phased introduction of the licensing system and how the authority will function. A good deal of thought is required in respect of all these matters.

Senators Tuffy and Terry stressed the importance of knowing who was behind a company. I draw to the attention of Senator Tuffy who was particularly concerned about the matter that section 2 of the Bill defines a "director" as follows:

"director", in relation to a body corporate, includes—

(a) any person occupying the position of director, by whatever name called,

(b) any person who effectively directs or has a material influence over the business of the body corporate,

(c) any person in accordance with whose directions or instructions the directors of the body corporate are accustomed to act, unless the directors are accustomed so to act by reason only that they do so on advice given by the person in a professional capacity, and

(d) where the affairs of the body corporate are managed by its members, any of the members who exercises the functions of such management;

It is a fairly comprehensive definition of control. One cannot avoid the investigation of one's character or one's beneficial interest in a company. If one de facto controls a company or has a material interest in its management, one is covered by this artificial extension of the term "director" in order that one is caught up in it. One's character, behaviour, fitness and propriety as a director are extended to cover situations of that kind, in which people act as shadow directors, in effect, or as manipulators behind the scenes of a company. For example, if members of a paramilitary organisation get a stooge to set up a company but it is abundantly clear that they are pulling the strings and there is evidence to that effect, it will not be possible for them simply to say they are not covered by the entity because they do not hold paper office in the body corporate.

Senator Tuffy also discussed the system of advertising applications for licences. There would be difficulties if we were to require every doorman, watchman or security guard to place an advertisement in a newspaper stating they intend to apply for a licence. The proposed security authority may decide, in the fullness of time, that such notices should be placed on its website. It may decide to inform the public that applications have been received from larger organisations such as bodies corporate. If we require people who wish, from time to time, to work as a security guard at a rock concert in their spare time to advertise in a newspaper their intention to apply for such a licence, we may be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

I hope the register that will be open to public inspection will available to read on the Internet, in accordance with the Government's e-commerce and e-government strategies. As we live in the 21st rather than the 19th century, it seems information publicly available should be made available in a way that makes sense.

Senators referred to the training of those colloquially known as "bouncers" but who are more politely referred to in the Bill as "door supervisors". The training given to a door supervisor is probably quite different from that given to a site watchman who is considered in the Bill as a "security guard". While they may share certain training requirements such basic first aid and similar issues, other requirements might be inapplicable to a security guard but appropriate in the case of a door supervisor. A door supervisor may need to be trained in crowd control or dealing with aggressive or difficult people, for example, but a security guard may have different needs. The fact that there are two categories means that the authority is entitled to prescribe different levels of training. If one is employed on a building site as a security guard or night watchman, one's level of training will not necessarily be the same as that demanded of door supervisors.

Senator Terry mentioned that she was worried about happy hours and drinks promotions.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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She has raised the matter in the House on many occasions.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I am not sure if she was in order to discuss the matter but if she was not, I will be equally disorderly by responding to her comments. I think I know from the hints she gave me where such happy hours are to be found.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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Down the road.

Sheila Terry (Fine Gael)
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That is one of them.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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If the Senator draws a case to my attention, I will ensure it is dealt with. I am anxious to ensure all instances of inappropriate promotion of alcohol to young people are drawn to the attention of my Department, the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána or the District Court, as appropriate. It is important that we develop a different attitude to drinking.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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That point has been made in this House.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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I say that in the context of the recent St. Patrick's Day arguments and controversy. As I was out of the country during that period, I was not in a position to draw conclusions of my own on the matter. There is one breed of commentator in public who says I am the personification of the nanny state while, on the other hand, there is a group telling me I am not doing enough to deal with problems such as those faced on St. Patrick's Day. Our recent legislative package has struck a balance between these two points of view. Being in politics is like being in a coconut shy: people will hit one from either side with equal vehemence and persistence.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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The Minister must be getting it right then.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Yes. As long as it comes from both sides, I must be getting it right.

Some of the penalties in the Bill are District Court summary conviction penalties but others for offences such as employing unlicensed staff or acting as a security provider without a licence attract indictable penalties of five years' imprisonment and substantial fines on indictment. If an offence is punishable by a term of five years' imprisonment, it becomes an arrestable offence, which gives the Garda power to detain a person, carry out searches in certain circumstances, question people and so on, which would not be the case in regard to a summary offence. The Bill has teeth without being draconian.

Senator Quinn mentioned the issue of the future we are facing. Whatever view one holds about where our society is going, private security will increasingly be part of our lives. Yesterday I met a delegation from the South Dublin Chamber of Commerce to discuss the problems it was having in a particular shopping centre. It is unreasonable to expect the State will be in a position to provide store detectives through the Garda. That will not happen. Because of our modern methods of retailing and marketing, in which everything must be open and accessible rather than behind counters and up on shelves, it is the essence of modern retailing, marketing and entertainment that those who provide these services must provide the appropriate security.

In Cork, for example, there is a partnership among the Judiciary, the Garda and the entertainment industry in which norms are applied to the number of door security staff appropriate to a venue, the use of closed circuit television systems, opening hours and so on. The three partners, particularly the Judiciary, the licensing body, are aware that these agreed norms amount to a partnership. This has had useful repercussions. I am told by senior gardaí in Cork that the number of public order offences went down by one third once this new approach was taken. A key element, undoubtedly, is that the owners of premises are investing in proper supervisory staff, management and training.

The question of whether it is appropriate for gardaí to provide security services was raised. It is not appropriate for gardaí to provide security services of the ordinary kind.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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In their spare time.

Photo of Michael McDowellMichael McDowell (Dublin South East, Progressive Democrats)
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Yes, although I am not happy to make a blanket statement that no security service mentioned in the Bill could ever be provided by gardaí. For example, I do not want to say it would be wrong for a garda to have an interest in a locksmith business. It is clearly inappropriate, however, for gardaí to act as door staff in venues with which other gardaí are likely to have business. This would be quite wrong. I have emphasised, however, that this is a matter for Garda legislation and regulations. It is not really a matter for private security industry legislation.

Mention was made of prison officers and members of the Defence Forces. I have no objection in principle to a prison officer acting as a security person in his or her own time at a rock concert, race meeting, Croke Park or Lansdowne Road. One of my aims as Minister is to return to prison officers as much of their own time as possible. Therefore, I do not want to be draconian and say they cannot provide useful services in the time I am returning to them under my proposals.

I also do not see anything wrong in principle with members of the Defence Forces providing security services at sports events such as the Budweiser Derby. I do not see why they should not participate in such activities, providing it does not conflict with their obligations as members of the Defence Forces. We need different approaches to different situations but I agree with the notion that it is inherently undesirable for members of the Garda Síochána to work as bouncers during their spare time. They are not permitted to do so. The potential for conflict of interest would be serious.

The legislation went through a detailed examination in the Dáil. It was by no means cursory. Committee Stage of the legislation went on for a number of days and valuable changes were made, some of which I outlined to the House, including provisions to prevent abuse of the European right of establishment to circumvent licensing regulations. The Bill, although it may not be perfect, is robust legislation which should prove adequate for the establishment of the Private Security Authority. Although problems may arise with it in a number of years, as happens to nearly all legislation that is the first to deal with a particular area, it can be commended to the House with a degree of confidence.

I look forward to Committee and remaining Stages in this House but, above all, I look forward to the Bill's passing into law. It is remarkable that even in the 21st century we have no legislation in this area, for the reasons mentioned by all Senators. I thank all Members for their constructive and thoughtful contributions and look forward to having the Bill processed through the appropriate Stages of consideration and established in law as soon as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)
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Next week.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 31 March 2004.

Sitting suspended at 12.20 p.m. and resumed at 1.30 p.m.