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Private investigators would have to be SIA-badged by now, but for the Coalition governments change of heart about regulation.

Private investigators would have to be SIA-badged by now, but for the Coalition government’s change of heart about regulation, it appears from the minutes of the SIA board meeting of July 28, released this month.

According to the minutes, downloadable from the SIA website, Chief Executive Bill Butler told the July meeting that the SIA would have liked to address the regulation of PIs earlier. The planned roll out for licensing private investigators would have meant an offence date of October 1, 2011. However, the Home Office had halted work and funding on this project in 2010 due to uncertainty as to the future of the SIA.

A Home Office minister’s response to a Parliamentary Question set out the Government’s current position; “Any regulation of private investigators which is brought into force before [the transition to a new regulatory regime by the end of 2013] will be included in the transition to the new regime.”

According to the minutes, ‘in the light of current concerns’ - presumably meaning the News of the World scandal including hire of a private investigator to ‘blag’ phone numbers and other confidential but newsworthy data - the Home Office asked what would be required to commence licensing of PIs. The minutes went on: “We have pointed out that arrangements for licensing, including skills, had been agreed but currently there was not the training capacity available as this had not been commenced once the decision to stop the project was taken.

“Although the competency requirement for PIs has been set and the qualification is ready, only one awarding body stands ready to offer the qualification now, so there would not yet be full availability of the qualification nationally. We would expect it to take about 12 months to move to a position where the industry was ready to be compliant with the qualifications requirement of our regulation.

“The board discussed how some form of licensing might be introduced at an early stage and agreed that the government would need to be responsible for funding any work required for regulating the PI sector. Any change to regulation would also need to be considered against the current moratorium on small business regulation.”

As reported in the November print issue of Professional Security, badging of PIs, while apparently dead due to the Coalition government stance to abolish the SIA, is at least on the agenda again; though any outcome awaits the Leveson inquiry into the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Separately, as a clue to how the service sector is doing in the economy, Bill Butler in his chief executive’s report said that there were 718 approved contractors, 53 revoked, 108 being processed. “New application rates holding up well although liquidations remain high.”

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