My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
It is almost a year since the department received the independent report on personnel security in the transport industry by Stephen Boys Smith. Much work has been done since then and I can now give the House an update.
The review was commissioned as a health check on the current arrangements and covered all modes of transport. The review consulted more than 80 stakeholders and the report that emerged contained a detailed assessment of current security processes and recommendations of where changes might be needed. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, the report was not published in full, but a short summary was placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the department’s website. Relevant sections of the report were issued in full to industry stakeholders.
The report acknowledged that protective security is best applied in multiple layers and noted the importance of the existing physical security regimes. But it also pointed out that, as physical security continues to improve, the potential insider threat is likely to increase, and that, although a number of personnel security measures are already in place, there is a case and scope for incremental change. The overarching message of the report was that the time is right for there to be an increased focus on personnel security and that this should be informed by systematic analysis of the risks. The report also pointed to the need for industry employers to take greater ownership of personnel security, but that the Government have a vital role in providing advice and assistance in mitigating the risks.
We have continued to build on our existing dialogue with the industry with a successful cross-modal conference on 3 October 2008 to discuss how we can collectively improve personnel security in the transport sector. We have established an industry sounding board to help to identify areas of concern to industry partners and to test emerging ideas and proposals within the programme. Following the report’s central recommendation, we are currently carrying out a programme of risk assessments with industry stakeholders to identify priority areas. The outcomes of the risk assessments will inform the detail of the future programme of work, but much continues to be done in the mean time.
We have produced and issued detailed guidance to employers on operating a voluntary regime of overseas criminal record checks. Also, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) has produced and published detailed guidance on how overseas criminal record information can be obtained and assessed. We have consulted on the introduction of a mandatory requirement for overseas criminal record checks and I am announcing today that such checks will become mandatory for all new staff in posts that are subject to counterterrorism checks. The necessary regulatory changes will be made mode by mode starting with aviation, where it will become a requirement as of 31 August 2009.
On identity, we have been working with colleagues at CPNI and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to promulgate best practice guidance on verifying documents. We are supporting the work of the Identity and Passport Service in the delivery of improved identity services, including the rollout of national identity cards. Stephen Boys Smith concluded that UK identity cards are a useful addition to identity assurance and we support the decision of the Home Secretary that the objective of better identity assurance can be delivered without the need to make ID cards mandatory for airside workers.
We are examining with industry how best to make use of the range of information available as part of pre-employment checks. We have amended and reissued our regulations to reflect the report’s recommendation that the minimum gap period that should be referenced should be extended from 14 to 28 days.
With regard to national security vetting (NSV), we have been engaged in wider discussions across government about the development of NSV policy and process, with the aim of making it more efficient. The department has increased the resources allocated to this area and is actively exploring other options, including contracting work to other vetting service providers.
We have reiterated to industry the need for personnel security measures to be applied down the contracting chain and are exploring how best to use existing inspection regimes to monitor and enforce this.
Personnel security post-recruitment is very important and we are working with colleagues across government to ensure that policies and practice relating to existing employees are consistent, fair and robust. CPNI has published guidance for employers on handling approaches about their staff from security agencies, and DfT is working to establish agreed protocols for the handling of cases where there are security concerns about individuals already in post.
Finally, we are working with industry and CPNI to ensure that personnel security guidance is appropriately disseminated and focused on the requirements of its intended audience. The department is considering ways in which this guidance can be tailored to reflect the variety in the scale and structure of companies in the transport industry.