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Olympics (Security)

Volume 540: debated on Monday 20 February 2012

5. What contribution the armed forces will make to security at the London 2012 Olympics; and if he will make a statement. (95282)

In support of the police and other civil and Olympic authorities, the armed forces will provide up to 13,500 regular and reserve personnel to ensure the Olympic and Paralympic games are safe and secure. Up to 7,500 will support the smooth running of Olympic sites, while the remainder will use their specialist capabilities and equipment to contribute to the delivery of Olympic security.

I announced to the House earlier today by written statement that an order has been made under section 56(1A) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable up to 2,000 reservists to be called out to support Olympic security.

The Army will apply its policy of intelligent selection for the Olympics. Only those reservists who volunteer and who have the support of their employers will be called out in connection with the Olympic games.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the scale of support that he has announced. I recently visited the regional fire control centre that is opening in my constituency, which will provide emergency fire control at the Olympics. Will my right hon. Friend offer some insight to the House about who might be in overall command of an emergency or of security, and what procedures he is putting in place to ensure that both the civil and military authorities concerned with the Olympics security will work together?

I thank the Secretary of State, who had intended to group Question 5 with Question 11. He did not, so I do so on his behalf. I know he will be grateful.

I think the Secretary of State did, and I did too. However, the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) says that he never withdrew it in the first place. A gremlin got into the system.

11. What contribution the armed forces will make to security at the London 2012 Olympics; and if he will make a statement. (95290)

I am sure we look forward to my hon. Friend’s supplementary question.

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), I can say that the safety and security of the games is the responsibility of the Home Office and will be police led. The national Olympic security co-ordinator is the principal co-ordinating police officer for the delivery of national safety and security operations. Military personnel will remain under military command and control arrangements. Defence is working closely with the police and other civil authorities to ensure that that co-ordination between them is effective and that the games are safe and secure.

I fear that the House will be sorely disappointed.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if reservists are deployed for Olympic security, the services will work with employers to minimise disruption as much as possible to those businesses?

I am delighted to see my hon. Friend here. His exercise in expectation management was not required.

In my initial response I said that we thought long and hard about whether it was right to call out reserves for the Olympics and the decision was that we would call out reserves only where both the reservists themselves are willing volunteers and their employers have signified that they are willing and able to release them for that period. This call-out will be on an entirely voluntary basis for both the employer and the reservists.

How many troops does the Secretary of State expect to be in London for the Olympics, as opposed to regional areas, and could he clarify for me what military command and control is, as related to Home Office police responsibility?

We do not yet have numbers for the final distribution between the different locations, but clearly the major venues will be in London and I would expect the majority of armed forces personnel deployed to be at those venues. With regard to command and control, the police are in overall control. The specific arrangements for integrating the military into the command structure will vary from place to place and task to task. A series of exercises is now taking place, one purpose of which is to test the proposals for integrating military and police command and ensure that they are robust.