TOUGH new licensing regulations have been introduced to tune up the security industry. The Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority gazetted the regulations - the second phase of a seven-year review prompted by concern about sloppy operators - on Friday. All security companies will now need to comply with them before being granted an operating licence. They include checks on company financial status and operational efficiency, provisions requiring checks on employees' background and requirements for supervision and training. However, the Security Association, which represents 68 leading security companies, says the changes will not improve standards or clean up the industry's poor image. Its criticisms are mainly aimed at the first phase of the new regulations which deal with providing permits to every security industry employee and repeals the Watchman's Ordinance. The association believes the new authority which drew up the regulations, chaired by legislator Miriam Lau Kin-yee, has bowed to political pressure by failing to get tough on elderly watchmen. 'Given that the primary objectives agreed with the Government [seven years ago] were to improve the standards and image of the industry, the recent watering down . . . is unacceptable,' an association spokesman said. Various upper-age limits have been set for guards - unless they work in 'single private residential buildings' - effectively exempting elderly watchmen. The association was disappointed watchmen could no longer be prosecuted for sleeping on duty. It is also concerned background checks will be more difficult now that guards need no longer live in Hong Kong for two years before being issued a permit. 'What compounds the problem is that [guards more than 65 years old] and not employed by a security company can work without training, supervision or control. This is further compounded by the loose definition of a single private residential building.' Calvin Cheung Kwok-leung, executive officer of the Security and Guarding Services Authority, said he understood the worries of the industry, but that regulations had to strike a balance. He said the new permits and licences were likely to be issued by the end of the year. Police are still searching for a Securicor guard who escaped to Macau with $2.3 million three weeks ago after driving off in the company armoured vehicle. Police now know Lam Wang-hon left for Macau through the Macau Ferry Terminal 30 minutes after the van disappeared in North Point and was abandoned in Taikoo Shing.