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A proposed amendment to the Private Security Industry Bill was defeated in the final days of the last parliament by 315 to 111 despite vigorous lobbying from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
However, Nigel Hickson, head of e-business at the CBI, said he was "reasonably pleased" with the outcome after Home Office minister Charles Clarke gave assurances that IT security consultants would not be licensed in future. "That world has absolutely nothing to fear from it," said Clarke.
"We have got an assurance that there will be no regulation of IT consultants or licensing," said Hickson. However, there is widespread concern that Clarke's assurances have been devalued by the government's refusal to specifically exclude IT security professionals.
"This is simply contradictory to his assurances," said Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research. "I take that to mean the government wants a last resort power to license people in that sector."
He added, "This government has a proven tendency to panic on IT security issues. Despite his flimsy assurances, the fact is the Home Office will be able to introduce licensing without further primary legislation."
In Parliament Clarke attacked shadow home office minister Nick Hawkins and defended the decision not to accept the amendment. "In the event that a criminal individual or organisation sought to develop a presence in the IT security industry in order to undermine companies' security," said Clarke, "is he (Hawkins) suggesting that there should be no process for looking into the people involved and no application of the general principle of the Bill?"
Hawkins was unimpressed. "We attempted yet again to persuade the government but they still aren't listening," he told CW360.com. "The government has learned no lessons from the IR35 debacle."