The Government’s overriding priority is to use all resources necessary to deliver a safe and secure Olympic games. That is what the public and the House would expect. The security operation has been meticulously planned. It will be the largest and most complex security operation in this country since the second world war.
Police plans, and those of the security and intelligence agencies, are well advanced. The success of the policing operation around the nationwide Olympic torch relay gives confidence in the robustness of police planning. Contingency planning has always been central to our security work, should any changes be needed at this late stage. The games security picture can change rapidly, so we have deliberately built in flexibility to respond to any challenge.
As the Defence Secretary has already told the House, we had always intended to deploy 7,500 military personnel to support the venue security operation organised by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. These military personnel have already started to deploy to venues to support the rolling search and lock-down process between now and the start of the Olympics. They are already working alongside the police, LOCOG, the commercial security provider, G4S, and accredited volunteer staff.
As the venue security exercise has got under way, concerns have arisen about G4S’s ability to deliver the required number of guards for all Olympics venues and within the time scales available. The Defence Secretary and I, along with other Ministers, have been constantly monitoring the situation and the security contracts over many months. In consultation with LOCOG and G4S, we have now agreed that it would be prudent to deploy additional military support to provide greater reassurance.
I have therefore requested additional MOD support, and the Defence Secretary has authorised the deployment of a further 3,500 military personnel. That will bring the total number of military personnel supporting the safety and security of the games in a variety of roles to 17,000, including the military personnel deployed on functions wider than venue security. The chiefs of staff support an increased deployment and have confirmed that the deployment will have no adverse impact on other operations. The Government have committed £553 million for venue security and remain confident that we will deliver within that budget.
Ministers across Government recognise the burden that this additional short-notice deployment will impose upon individual servicemen and women and their families, especially over the summer holiday season, so we will ensure that all those taking part receive their full leave entitlement, even if it has to be rescheduled, that no one is out of pocket due to cancelled personal arrangements and that all deployed personnel are appropriately supported.
We have agreed with LOCOG that 10,000 Olympic and Paralympic tickets will be donated to the armed services via Tickets for Troops. Access for 2,000 people to spectator areas in the Mall for the Olympic cycle road races and the Olympic marathon will also be made available, as will the right to buy 2,000 Olympic park tickets. In addition, I can tell the House that a total of 7,000 tickets have now been offered to the troops for the dress rehearsals of the opening and closing ceremonies, a significant increase to recognise their extra commitment.
I can confirm to the House that there remains no specific security threat to the games and the threat level remains unchanged, and let me reiterate that there is no question of Olympic security being compromised.
In this country, we have the finest military personnel in the world, and they stand ready to do their duty, whatever the nation may ask. Our troops are highly skilled and highly trained, and this task is the most important facing our nation today. I know that we can rely on our troops to help deliver a safe and secure Olympic games that London, the country and the whole world can enjoy.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question and the Home Secretary for coming to the House at such short notice. I endorse the Government’s decision to provide 3,500 additional troops.
The right hon. Lady will understand, 15 days from the start of what we all hope will still be the greatest Olympics that have ever been staged, our deep concern about reports that surfaced last Sunday, now confirmed by the Government, that there is a shortfall in the trained security officers provided by G4S.
On Monday in the House the Home Secretary said:
“We have been testing our plans thoroughly and are confident that our partners”—
“will deliver a safe and secure games”.—[Official Report, 9 July 2012; Vol. 548, c. 9.]
I spoke this morning to the chief executive of LOCOG, who told me that the matter surfaced, that it crystallised a fortnight ago but there had been concerns for some time, and that the decision, as the Home Secretary says, was made by all parties concerned.
Can the Home Secretary confirm the exact date that Ministers found out about the security shortfall, and the action that she took? When was the decision made to ask the Secretary of State for Defence for these additional troops, and when did he agree to provide them? What processes were in place to monitor the situation over the period—indeed, the lifetime—of the G4S contract?
I am very pleased with what the Home Secretary has said about the taxpayer not being inconvenienced by the situation, but will any troops have come from abroad and, therefore, be entitled to leave now because they are exhausted? It is a question not just of their being out of pocket.
Can the Home Secretary confirm that G4S will suffer penalties as a result of this fiasco? As she knows, G4S is already the supplier of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of Government contracts, from prisons to the immigration service. Will she now look at those contracts and ensure that there is a pause before any more are awarded?
Can the Home Secretary confirm that the Prime Minister had to cancel his appearance before the Olympic security committee this week, but that it will be rearranged? I attempted to contact the chairman of G4S this morning. Apparently he is in an emergency meeting with the MOD, the Home Office and other officials. I hope it is not another crisis meeting, with another set of changes.
G4S has let the country down, and we have literally had to send in the troops. Can the Home Secretary assure the House that she is now satisfied that all the changes she has announced today will mean that what we hope will be the greatest games ever staged will be done securely, for the safety of visitors and the British people?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support for the Government’s decision. It is absolutely right that, at this stage, when what may be a gap has opened up, we act quickly to ensure that any gap will be filled.
The right hon. Gentleman asks about my remarks in the House on Monday, and about when the gap in the numbers from G4S was crystallised. We were receiving reassurances from G4S until very recently, and the absolute gap in numbers was crystallised finally only yesterday.
Because we have been monitoring the situation, we had had discussions with the MOD about whether troops would be available for the contingency, should the circumstances have arisen in which that was necessary, and that is why yesterday we were able to take that decision, having prudently had those discussions and made those contingency arrangements.
As I said in my response to this urgent question, we have been monitoring: monitoring has been taking place throughout the contract process; and we have obviously been testing and challenging the assurances that we have been receiving from G4S.
It is the case that some troops who are now within that 3,500 number will be from abroad, and some will have returned from recent operations.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about penalties for G4S. LOCOG signed the contract with G4S, and I understand that there are penalties within that contract. It will be for LOCOG to deal with that matter with G4S. He said that the Prime Minister had been forced to cancel the Olympic security board meeting this week, but the Prime Minister was not forced to do that.
What is absolutely essential is that when the Government identified that a need was there, we acted to ensure that we covered that requirement so that we can ensure that we have the venue security and general security for the games that we all want.
I welcome the decisive action that my right hon. Friend has taken in safeguarding security for the Olympics. I particularly welcome what she said about the armed forces; the country would appreciate it if the powers that be were as generous as possible to members of the armed forces and their families in respect of receiving tickets and hospitality for the Olympic games.
On the further, separate point about G4S that the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) has just chosen to make, is it not the case that G4S received large-scale contracts from the Government and was considered fit to receive such contracts before May 2010, for example?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right on that point. On his earlier point about generosity to the armed forces, I should say that the Secretary of State for Defence has taken that very seriously. He has been ensuring that we will be generous to those who are taking on the responsibility. As I outlined in my remarks, a number of arrangements are being made to cover that, particularly if members of the armed forces have personal arrangements, to make sure that they are not out of pocket and that they will get the leave to which they are entitled.
Everyone wants us to have a safe and successful Olympics, and we support the Home Secretary’s decision to bring in extra military support in the circumstances. We also recognise that, given the scale of the Olympic challenge, no one can guarantee that everything will go smoothly.
However, I have to say to the Home Secretary that this really looks like another huge Home Office shambles. On Monday, she was asked specifically about recruitment at G4S. She said:
“The Home Office has put in place a number of assurance processes to ensure that we have effective and robust scrutiny of venue security planning. We have been testing our plans thoroughly and are confident that our partners will deliver a safe and secure games”—[Official Report, 9 July 2012; Vol. 548, c. 9.]
She was so confident that two days later she called in the troops. What does it say about the Home Secretary’s assurance process that it took until two weeks before the games to realise that 3,500 military additional personnel would be needed? G4S is not just a few volunteers short—we are talking about 3,500 people from a contract to provide 10,000 staff and 6,000 volunteers. That is a breach of contract of about 25%. Why did it take until lock-down to realise what was going on?
The Minister responsible for security, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), told the “Today” programme this morning:
“We’ve obviously been monitoring the progress and been challenging them, asking the questions, really going down, kicking the tyres and doing all those sorts of things.”
Well, it was not very effective—was it?—if, with just 15 days to go, we could be in this situation. Can the Home Secretary tell us again what will happen to the G4S contract? Has she even asked those questions to make sure that the security budget is not affected and that the taxpayer does not end up out of pocket?
Of course we pay tribute to our military, who I am sure will do an excellent job, but what does it say about the Home Office that there are still two-hour queues at Heathrow, that borders staff sacked last year are being re-recruited, that the borders force is becoming a borders farce, and that the dynamic duo of the security Minister and the Minister for Immigration were tripping up this morning in the “Today” programme studios to defend themselves on different aspects of Home Office incompetence?
Everyone is working really hard to make the games a success and show the world the best of British. The Home Office is making that harder, not easier. I say to the Home Secretary: please get the security and border problems sorted out and stop letting everybody else down.
I think that I can deal swiftly with the right hon. Lady’s response. First, I thank her for her support for the decision. Secondly, I should say that it is not a shambles when the Government take the action necessary to ensure that we are providing the venue security. Troops have always been part of the provision of venue security and we are taking the action that ensures that we have the confidence that the numbers will be there. She should have listened to the answer I gave to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) about the timetable in relation to the G4S contract. It is a LOCOG contract, and it is for LOCOG to exercise the penalties within it.
As for the right hon. Lady’s reference to my hon. Friends the security Minister and the Minister for Immigration, I am sure that if neither of them had been speaking publicly about these issues today she would have complained about that as well. I am slightly sorry that she has not taken the approach of her noble Friend, Lord West, who has said, “I’m not trying to indulge in a blame game regarding Governments.” It is a pity that she could not, like him, be a bit more statesmanlike.
Safety and security is of paramount importance, and we should welcome the willingness of our armed forces to take on these additional responsibilities. Will the Home Secretary assure us that the additional troops will be provided with the necessary training, particularly for specialist tasks such as scanning? If G4S can bring additional people in, may we have an assurance that troop numbers will be reduced over time?
I thank my right hon. Friend for those questions. Yes, I can absolutely give the assurance that the training will be provided. We will of course want to ensure that at all times we have the correct number and the correct mix of people available to undertake venue security duties. I assure him that the troops will be used for tasks for which they have been fully trained.
The overall number that we were looking for was 23,700, which includes 7,500 troops. The right hon. Gentleman can do the maths for himself in terms of the total numbers and make-up of staff, who include volunteers, students, and the G4S staff themselves. G4S undertook the training of all those elements. G4S has said that it is not able to provide the balance of 16,000 to 17,000 guards, and therefore we have taken the step of bringing in the 3,500 military personnel. That is absolutely what one would expect a Government to do in these circumstances, and if he were in government, he would be doing exactly the same thing.
May I congratulate the Home Secretary on the prompt way in which she has dealt with this difficulty? Will she confirm that members of the Territorial Army based around London would be extremely serviceable on this occasion and would, I am sure, be very pleased to be called up to help in these matters? Will she assure us that all the security and immigration matters at Heathrow have been attended to, so that there is the ability to get people swiftly through and it will be a flawless operation?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his very appropriate reference to the reserves, who are indeed being used. We welcome the work done by people who willingly give up their time to the Territorial Army, and they will be part of the troop deployment that will be taking place for the security of the Olympics. On Sunday, the contingency arrangements for the Olympics period will kick in at Heathrow, with the extra numbers of staff over and above any who have already gone in, and there will be a policy of ensuring that all desks are manned at peak times. That will deal with the issue he raised.
I share the view that has been expressed about the military. In February 2003, when there was a very serious security threat to Heathrow, we discovered that the deployment and demeanour of the military was crucial in avoiding turning security into a feeling of insecurity. Given the deployment of missiles on residential property and the numbers of military now being deployed, will the Home Secretary talk to LOCOG to ensure that we do not have a repeat of a situation where visitors to this country feel genuinely worried?
I think that the opposite is the case. Obviously, we want people who are coming to the Olympics to feel that they are coming to an event that is about sport and not to think that the prime issue that they are facing is security. All the evidence so far is that the troops who are already at Olympic venues are welcomed, that their demeanour is entirely appropriate, and that they provide a degree of reassurance that is welcome to the public.
The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee has rightly asked an important question this morning and I am grateful for the Home Secretary’s reassurances. Does she share my feeling that the sour attitude and political point scoring from the Labour Front Bench will not be forgotten by Londoners if it continues?
My hon. Friend, as a London Member of Parliament, has made her point very appropriately and very well. I say to the Opposition that what Londoners and people across the country want is for us all to be behind the Olympics and to do what we need to do to ensure that it is a great event for the United Kingdom.
Despite all the excuses that are being made, does the Home Secretary recognise that people will see what The Daily Telegraph has written about a security farce as perfectly justified? What is so difficult to understand is that, with all the time that has been available to prepare for the Olympics, we now have this near-crisis with just 15 days to go. Why should the country be let down by the Home Secretary and by the failure to plan properly? Why should Britain become an international embarrassment as a result of her incompetence?
The aspect of the hon. Gentleman’s question that most strikes me is the fact that he reads The Daily Telegraph. The Home Office has ensured that contingency arrangements are in place throughout this period. We have monitored the progress and looked for reassurances from LOCOG, whose contract it is with G4S, and from G4S. As I said in answer to the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the gap in numbers that has been identified, which requires us to employ these 3,500 troops on venue security, crystallised only yesterday.
I draw the attention of the House to my interest as a member of the Royal Navy Reserve. This situation shows how reliant we are on our armed forces. We must never take them for granted. I welcome the Home Secretary’s announcements about compensation and access to events, which I think will be very much appreciated. Will she reassure the House that there will be enough time and budget to ensure that, whether they are regulars or reservists, people are properly trained?
Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. She is right that we would not want to put our military personnel into these circumstances without their having been trained, because they are not usually required to undertake some of these duties. The training will be there.
It is clearly in the Home Secretary’s job description to look unruffled when faced with a shambles, and she is getting plenty of practice. Very simply, if the operation was planned as meticulously and monitored as carefully as she claims, how did it go so badly wrong?
As I have said, and as the right hon. Gentleman has repeated, we have been monitoring this situation, but, of course, it is only at this point, when the scheduling of staff for the Olympic games comes through fully, that these sorts of issues start to arise. It is perfectly reasonable for the Government to have been talking to G4S and LOCOG throughout this period, which we have been doing. We have ensured that contingency arrangements are in place in case there are any difficulties. When we were advised yesterday that the guarantee was not there of the numbers that we needed, we did what was absolutely right and appropriate: we said that we needed to put extra contingency arrangements in place and we did so.
We have obviously had discussions with LOCOG and G4S about their plans for the numbers that they were bringing on board at any particular point in time. It has become clear to G4S that it cannot guarantee the numbers that it had previously given us reassurances about. It is in those circumstances that we have made the contingency arrangements.
I welcome the use of extra servicemen and women at our Olympics. The three Olympic games that I have attended have had many representatives of the armed forces, who do a brilliant job. Perhaps they should have been involved from the beginning and the money that has gone to this security force could have gone to them to start with. Can we please remember that this is a sporting event? I worry that we are going so over the top on the security aspect that people have forgotten that this is about countries competing in sporting endeavours in a friendly way.
The hon. Lady makes an extremely valid point. This is a sporting event. We want people to come to London 2012 and enjoy it as a sporting event. We want them to feel safe and secure while they are doing that. That is why it is appropriate for us to ensure that the venue security arrangements are right. She referred to the military being engaged in other Olympic games. The military in the UK provides security at other sporting events, such as Wimbledon, so it is not unusual. What is different is the scale of this event and, therefore, the scale of the venue security that has to be provided.
I commend the Home Secretary for her swift action. I can imagine the furore on the Opposition Benches had she not taken such action. On the penalty clauses between LOCOG and G4S, in my experience of business, such clauses are easily wriggled out of. I urge her to press LOCOG to publish the details of any successful rebate that it gets as a result of these apparent errors.
My hon. Friend is right that in previous examples, penalty clauses have not operated as well as they should have done. This is a matter for LOCOG to deal with, along with G4S. Everybody accepts that there are penalty clauses in the contract. That is obviously being looked at carefully. I will ensure that LOCOG is aware of his suggestion.
I join others in congratulating the armed services on identifying personnel so swiftly and thank the 3,000 volunteers who will provide venue security. The Public Accounts Committee has looked at the issue of venue security a number of times. Does the Home Secretary accept that her Department and LOCOG did not identify early enough the numbers that would be sufficient? The contract with G4S was increased from £282 million at the time of the spending review to £553 million a few months later in December 2011. That suggests insufficient planning. Her officials, together with LOCOG officials, gave assurances to my Committee that they would recruit sufficient numbers perfectly adequately. Why did her officials give those assurances when it has now become so chaotic?
On the right hon. Lady’s second point, the assurances were given on the basis of the discussions that were taking place with the contracted providers. At that stage, the contracted providers were clear that they were going to be able to provide the numbers that they were contracted to provide. As I have explained, the gap that has opened up finally crystallised only yesterday when the request came through and we accepted that there was a need to undertake further contingency arrangements.
On the right hon. Lady’s first question, it was never the case that it would be possible, two or three years out, to identify absolutely every requirement of venue security. It was possible to identify the full requirements for venue security only at the point when all the venues had been determined by LOCOG, the appropriate level of security at the venues had been determined and the programme of events had been scheduled. It was at that point that the numbers necessary for security were finally determined.
I pay tribute to all members of Her Majesty’s armed forces who will provide security at the Olympic games, particularly those from the Colchester garrison. Is it not fortunate that we still have an Army large enough to deploy these numbers? I put it to the Home Secretary in respect of G4S that no public contracts funded by UK taxpayers should go to a company that is aiding and abetting the state of Israel with illegal activities in the west bank.
I will not go down the route that the hon. Gentleman is trying to tempt me down on a matter that is more appropriate to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. However, I would say that G4S is one of the largest security providers in the world, so it was natural to look to exactly such a company for venue security.
Security begins at Heathrow. For months, the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents border control staff, has been warning the Government that there are too few staff. BAA wrote to the Government saying that the queues were caused by too few staff, and the former head of border control has said that the temporary staff who have been brought in are totally inadequately trained to meet security needs. I am worried not just about the embarrassment caused to this country by passengers who are coming for the Olympics spending more time in the queues than watching the Olympics, but about the security of the staff working at Heathrow, many of them my constituents. Does the Home Secretary not understand that her statement will be seen as utterly complacent about what is really needed at Heathrow airport?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s support for the Government’s approach to border security. When we identified that security checks had been relaxed and put to one side on many occasions between 2007 and 2011, we decided that as the job of the border forces is about border security, we would tighten up that security.
In failing to honour its contract, G4S has clearly let the whole country down. As a result of the Home Secretary’s swift and correct decision today, Britain will have more troops dedicated to venue security than deployed to Afghanistan. It is not enough to rely on penalty clauses in LOCOG’s contract with G4S. My constituents would want the Home Secretary and the Government to say that G4S should have no more Government contracts whatever until it pays every last penny of the additional costs of the extra 3,500 troops.
My hon. Friend refers to the number of troops working on venue security, but of course the overall number of troops that I cited includes those who will be involved in specialist support and other operations as well.
A number of right hon. and hon. Members have made comments about G4S and its contract, but it is still contracted to LOCOG as a partner to produce a significant number of personnel for venue security. We want to work with it, and we want LOCOG to work with it, to ensure that it can deliver the number to which it has now committed.
The whole House accepts the Home Secretary’s assurances about the great role that the armed services will play in the Olympics. Does she recognise, however, that the real casualties are the thousands of people who were looking for employment and volunteering opportunities as part of the legacy of the games? This morning, the airwaves were full of them complaining and expressing their frustration. Does she recognise that frustration, and can she say anything to them today?
We continue to support the work that G4S is doing to bring in the number of people that it has now said it will be able to supply. At the point when G4S and LOCOG identified that, in their estimation, there would be a gap in the number of people such as the hon. Gentleman mentioned coming forward to work in security jobs at the various Olympic venues, it was absolutely right that the Government said that we would not just risk what might happen. We decided that we would ensure venue security, and that is exactly what we have done.
Once again, our regular and reserve forces are about to prove that they are indeed the nation’s flexible friend, but they must not be taken for granted, and it is good to hear that the Home Secretary is not doing that. There will be big cash and opportunity costs for the Ministry of Defence budget as a result of all this. What structures exist to ensure that any clawback from G4S is hypothecated to the MOD?
I assure my hon. Friend that discussions are taking place among Departments about the funding. The funding will not reside with the MOD. The matter of penalties is one between LOCOG and G4S, but the Government will discuss it with them. As he rightly says, if the required numbers have not been delivered, the financial penalty proceeds should revert to the Government to make extra money available.
I share the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) about the number of people, including in my constituency, who would have loved to have had one of the 12,000 jobs that are now going not to security staff but to the armed forces.
The Home Secretary has been in her post for two years and two months. In that time she has had three security Ministers, and Olympic security needs have more than doubled. The Home Office knew that there was a problem in May 2010. When did she know there was a problem, and why did not she or one of her three security Ministers ask LOCOG more detailed questions about its poor forward planning?
No, Baroness Neville-Jones was the first security Minister, and my hon. Friend is the second. Perhaps the shadow Home Office team could pay a little more attention to what happens with Ministers—I know that there are more of them shadowing us than there are Ministers.
The Home Office and others examined the contract and worked with LOCOG and G4S throughout the period in question to ensure that the arrangements they had in place were correct. Only yesterday did it become clear that G4S felt it was not able to provide the full number of personnel that it was contracted to provide. I hope the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) will agree that, in those circumstances, it was entirely right for the Government to act.
As it is now more than seven years since the UK won the right to host the Olympic games, does my right hon. Friend not agree that the fact that we are having to bring in the Army with the opening ceremony just 15 days away must mean that someone in either LOCOG or G4S is utterly incompetent?
As I have explained in answer to a number of questions, plans have been put forward and changed over those years, and contingency arrangements were put in place. It was entirely right and proper for the Government to act in this appropriate and contingent manner when it became clear that the security provider contracted to LOCOG could not reassure us that it could provide the full number of personnel.
What will the Home Secretary do about terror suspect CF, who is reported to have visited the Olympic site five times and is believed by the court to have undergone terrorist training in Somalia? Does she accept that CF’s ability to be in London at all is a direct result of her legislation removing the power to relocate such suspects away from London or other parts of the country? That legislation is complacent, wrong-headed and dangerous. Will she revisit the issue on the basis that it is not the terror laws that threaten liberty but the intent of those who would seek to kill and maim innocent people?
It is certainly the case that the threat to the UK is the intent of those who wish to kill or maim fellow citizens. I answered a question on this matter in Home Office questions on Monday, and it is not possible for me to go into considerable detail of a case that is before the courts. However, the right hon. Gentleman is incorrect in some of the facts that he has stated. The situation is that the police identified CF travelling through the Olympic park area, and the arrangements that we have put in place enabled that identification to take place. That is different from what he said.
Order. I hope the House will take note of what the Home Secretary has said. That was a perfectly proper question and answer, but if the specific case is sub judice, which I believe to be so, we should not seek to press the Home Secretary on the details of it.
Will the Home Secretary remind us when the contract with G4S was entered into? Under its terms, will the company cover the cost of the welcome commitment to ensure that none of the additional armed forces involved in the Olympics will be in any way out of pocket?
The contract was entered into by LOCOG in December 2010. As has been indicated, the Ministry of Defence is making arrangements for troops. Payments will be made so that no troops are out of pocket as a result of this requirement on them, and arrangements will be made to ensure they can have the leave to which they are entitled. The Government will speak to LOCOG about the penalties available in the G4S contract. The contract is between LOCOG and G4S, but I can assure my hon. Friend that we intend to ensure we do not pay sums of money that we should not pay when penalties can be used to claw the money back.
I can confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that, as far as I am aware, the numbers were not affected by the accreditation system process for checks on individuals. There are various parts to the accreditation system. There is also a role for LOCOG in working with G4S in inputting information into the system and in ensuring that cards are available for those who are accredited.
Order. This is an extremely important matter in which there is a lot of interest. I would like to accommodate that interest among colleagues, but we have an important statement from the Foreign Secretary, business questions and other business to follow, and therefore I must appeal for short questions and short answers.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Our troops do a fantastic job for us in so many ways. Their ability to step in at this stage to undertake this work and to provide reassurance to everybody coming to the games is yet another example of what a great military we have.
G4S gets millions of pounds from the taxpayer to deliver the Work programme to reduce the unemployment created by the Government. At the same time, it gets millions of pounds to recruit security guards for the Olympics. Why could G4S not marry up those two initiatives?
Given the numbers necessary for venue security for the Olympics, it was entirely right of LOCOG to look at working with a private sector contractor as large as G4S, as I have said. It was entirely appropriate for LOCOG to do that. Frankly, it would not be right to say that we should not use private sector contractors for venue security—they are used in a number of such events very effectively. I remind my hon. Friend that G4S will provide venue security personnel for the Olympic games.
The Home Secretary will know that hundreds of thousands of people will attend Olympic events in Cardiff. My office received a number of calls this morning from constituents who did the course and got the necessary accreditation, but who will not have a job owing to the use of the Army. One constituent passed the course, but G4S has not yet sent the certificate of accreditation. The right hon. Lady said, quite rightly, that she will help the armed forces with extra tickets, so how about compensation for those people who wanted a job and went through the course and who are now denied the opportunity of a job in the Olympics?
The hon. Gentleman makes an assumption that he cannot make. Some of those who went through accreditation will be used by G4S, which will still provide a significant number of venue security personnel for the games. Security personnel will be drawn from those whom G4S has trained and who have been accredited.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s swift and decisive action and thank the Government for delivering the games on time and within budget. Will she confirm that there will be no extra requirements on the Metropolitan police? If there are such requirements, will there be similar gestures in the form of tickets for relatives of police whose leave is cancelled?
Thanks to the Culture Secretary.
I was about to come on to that. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) makes the point that all the Olympic venues are being delivered on time and within budget. I pay tribute to the work done by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport and my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, which built on work done by the previous Government—Labour was in government when the bid was won, and they did a lot of Olympics planning work. We should accept that both parties take responsibility for the Olympics and hope that everybody will enjoy a fantastic games.
When I first raised this issue with the Home Secretary on Monday, she refused to confirm the size of the shortfall, or indeed whether G4S had a shortfall in its security training. Will she say specifically what the size of the shortfall in G4S security trained staff is, 15 days before the Olympics start?
G4S has been training a significant number of staff—over and above the numbers it intended to provide. We do not know whether it can guarantee or reassure us that all those staff will be available for the Olympic games. It was on that basis that we decided to make contingency arrangements. In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s question on Monday, I refer him to the answer I have given on a number of occasions, but which I first gave to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who asked this urgent question: the fact that there was a gap of this size and that this contingency was required crystallised, and the request was made, yesterday.
I had the privilege of sailing along the Thames on HMS Ocean when she took up her position to provide security for events at venues all over London. Does my right hon. Friend share my belief that the presence of the Navy in London will be reassuring to all Londoners and volunteers, who are coming from Cornwall and all over the UK to help to make this the best ever Olympics?
My hon. Friend is right to remind us that, although we tend to use the term “troops”, the security contribution is being made by our armed forces as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary has laid a written ministerial statement today that refers not only to HMS Ocean and other Royal Navy assets, but to the important role that the Royal Air Force will play in ensuring our security.
As an Olympic host borough, my constituency is not hosting any events, but it is host to the surface-to-air missiles on residential blocks. There are already concerns about the heavy military presence. Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that proper safeguards will be in place? Will the military work closely with the community to provide sensitive security, so that people feel they will not be targeted? It is welcome that the military is stepping in to address this failure, but sensitive and appropriate treatment is needed.
I can reassure the hon. Lady. She will know that the Ministry of Defence and the military have made every effort to work with local residents, local residents’ groups and local authorities in the areas where the ground-based air defence will be situated. That will ensure that that layer of security for the Olympic games can be delivered safely and appropriately, and in conjunction with local residents.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her swift and decisive action in dealing with this matter. Will she confirm that the G4S contract is with LOCOG and not the Home Office, and that the previous Government procured that mixed arrangement?
The contract is indeed between LOCOG and G4S and not between the Home Office and G4S. It is therefore LOCOG’s responsibility to deal with the contract and to ensure that it contains the right penalties and so forth. As I have said, discussion took place for some time, but LOCOG finally signed the contract in December 2010. It had obviously discussed the mix with potential providers for some time prior to that.
Some of my constituents in Blackheath will have to live with Rapier missiles located metres from their home during the Olympics. Does the Home Secretary recognise that this latest fiasco with G4S undermines pubic confidence in the planning and preparation for the Olympics, and what assurances can she give me that the same lax approach has not been taken to other security arrangements?
This is not a lax approach; it is about the Government ensuring that we have the right approach to security and that we step in when the necessity arises. I hope that the hon. Lady will reflect carefully on the words she used today, however, because I can assure her that in providing this and other layers of security, particularly the Rapier missiles, the military are certainly not lax in their approach. They deal with these matters appropriately and are working with local residents, who can have every confidence in our armed forces.
G4S has had years to prepare for this event and has been paid millions of pounds, and according to the International Labour Organisation, 230,000 young people in this country are seeking part-time work to go with their studies, so the timing should have been perfect. What does the Home Secretary think has gone wrong with the labour market and G4S that it has been so completely incompetent at finding people to do these jobs?
G4S will still be providing a significant number of venue security personnel drawn from a variety of sources to provide security at the Olympic games. We will continue to work with the company. Obviously it recently identified problems with providing the complete number of personnel it was contracted to provide, but we will continue to work with it because it will still play a significant role in the security of the Olympic games.
We have heard across the House concerns about pressures on border security and wider airport security, so will the Home Secretary say what discussions she has had with the Ministry of Defence? Has she had confirmation from the MOD that it can provide any additional troops that might be required for a contingency plan to her existing contingency plan, and will any of those troops be coming from units abolished last week?
I can assure the hon. Lady that we have had significant discussions with the MOD about the contingency arrangements, but, as I said in my initial answer, the number of troops includes those on specialist operations as well as those providing venue security. A number of contingency arrangements remain in the plans, however, because we obviously recognise the need to continue to plan for other circumstances. That is why we will have been talking to the MOD. I can assure her that contingency arrangements remain.
A retired police officer from my constituency travelled to Cardiff in early April to be interviewed and offered a job by G4S. As of last week, he was still contacting it to find out whether he had a job. Will the Home Secretary advise police authorities and, in due course, police and crime commissioners to steer clear of this shower and stick with their own support staff and police officers?
Police forces up and down the country have been working with private sector contractors for a number of years now. For example, when I visited Maidenhead custody suite, Reliance was working alongside the police officers and others. Indeed, it was the previous Labour Government who enabled forces to bring in private sector contractors to undertake detention and escort duties, which had previously been done only by police officers.
Given that the Home Secretary has been caught out by her complacency towards this contract, has she given her personal attention to concerns raised with her by the noble Lord Prescott, among others, about the fire marshals contract that LOCOG has awarded to Close Protection UK? Does she think that company fit and proper to run those services, and does she have confidence in its ability to do so?
I am sure that the whole House will thank the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) for bringing such an important urgent question before us, and the Home Secretary for answering personally and not pushing it off to a junior Minister. Will she say whether what has been announced is the maximum number of troops being deployed? Would she hesitate to increase the number, if security was at risk?
As I said in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck), we are clear that we still have some contingency in place, so were there any security considerations, we could draw on that as well. We have ensured, and will continue to ensure, that further contingency arrangements are in place.