No surprise if the SIA is axed

By Peter Coulson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Security industry authority Local authorities Licensing act 1737 License The police

Coulson: Not surprised by SIA removal
Coulson: Not surprised by SIA removal
The threatened removal of the (SIA) is not surprising, but to suggest that the industry can police itself is scarcely credible, says Peter Coulson.

The threatened removal of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) as one of the quangos now under scrutiny for effectiveness by the current Government is not really surprising, given its turbulent and sometimes erratic past.

But if the coalition does decide to wind it up, there are many who will feel rather uneasy about the future for door supervision.

Whether you think it was well-handled or not (and I am one of the chief critics of the whole introductory process, which was appallingly managed) the fact remains that licensing of doorstaff is now an important safety element to ensure that the public is in safe hands.

To suggest that everything is now so well-organised that the industry can police itself is scarcely credible. You would have to be blind and deaf to think that the dubious elements that made regulation necessary have disappeared for good — any more than it can be true of the gambling industry.

While self-regulation has to some extent worked there, the Gambling Commission and the police still have their work cut out to remove the fringe elements who, for example, run illegal gaming syndicates or operate unlicensed machines.

Without some form of supervision and control, who is to say that the same problems will not re-occur in security circles?

Also, the removal of an established licensing system, which, with the roll-out of the Northern Ireland sector, now covers the whole of the UK, moves the problem on to hard-pressed and budget-slashed local authorities, not to mention the police. This is not to say they cannot handle it, but it is just one more administrative burden to bear, which could mean the dilution of effort in other areas.

The other losers in this might be the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping), which has spent a great deal of time and energy in putting together security-based programmes and examinations.

If the licensing system moves to councils, or the industry, where does this leave its package, at a time when, quite frankly, it is under some economic pressure?

But if the SIA is under threat of extinction, it probably recognises that it does not have the greatest pedigree.

From the start, under Molly Meacher, it managed to antagonise the licensed trade and started sabre-rattling far too early, but got its comeuppance at the end of 2007 when it was clear that it had failed to check the right to work in the UK of up to 20,000 doorstaff.

At that time I called for heads to roll, but I little realised that less than three years later all their heads would be on the block together!


If the licensing system is dismantled, of course, there is yet another amendment to the Licensing Act to be made, because SIA licensing for doorstaff is an integral part of that system.

But if the current Government goes ahead with its sweeping changes this autumn, that is just another part of the overall plan. In any event, if licensing is retained for local authorities, the doormen will simply swap one regime for another, although a centralised system seems far more sensible for this type of operation.

One thing is for sure — the hiring of doorstaff will not get any cheaper or easier as a result of the abolition of the SIA and it is the licensed trade that once again will have no direct say in the decision and will have to wrestle with the consequences.

But as this Government has clearly indicated that it has little time for, or interest in, the views of those who run pubs, that is hardly surprising.

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