G4S security boss admits he may be forced out over Olympics
LABOUR has called for G4S chief executive Nick Buckles to resign over Olympic security failings – with the embattled boss admitted he may be forced out over the chaos.
The demand from deputy leader Harriet Harman came as MPs on a key Commons committee prepare to grill Mr Buckles tomorrow over the firm’s failure to provide enough guards in time for the start of the games in 11 days’ time.
The army has been forced to provide an extra 3,500 soldiers to fill the gap caused by the security firm, which had agreed last year to increase the number of guards provided from 2,000 to 10,400.
However, Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday refused to rule out the prospect of having to draft in yet more troops.
He said: “We have contingency plans for all eventualities.”
Mr Hunt insisted the games would be secure and dismissed G4S’s problems as no more than a “hitch”, despite the revelation that the UK government had been warned about security concerns last September in a confidential report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
He even suggested it was “completely normal” for firms to break their contractual commitments on large projects.
He said: “G4S have been quite honourable. They have put their hands up. Nick Buckles, the chief executive, has said they got it wrong, they have apologised, they are going to cover all the costs, he has apologised to the troops who are going to be drafted in at the last moment.”
Mr Buckles said he had considered quitting his £830,000-a-year job and his future lay in the hands of the shareholders.
He said: “I want to stay. I have been here 27 years, I am very committed to staying. It just depends, doesn’t it?”
He will be questioned, along with G4S global events specialist Ian Horseman-Sewell, by the Commons’ home affairs committee, whose chairman, Keith Vaz, has called for a “full explanation”.
G4S has said it has “encountered significant difficulties in processing applicants in sufficient numbers through the necessary training, vetting and accreditation procedures”.
Another of the key figures at G4S is Edinburgh-born Mark Hamilton, managing director of its Olympic and Paralympic security operation. He joined G4S four years ago when Rock Steady, the Scottish security firm he founded in 1980, was taken over by the firm.
London 2012 chairman Lord Coe yesterday denied security had been compromised, but appeared to lay blame for the problems with the staff hired by G4S.
He said: “It was only when the rubber hit the road that we were able to see, as G4S identified, a gap. The reality is, and I cannot put this any more simply, when they expected people to materialise, they simply didn’t. That is why we moved quickly to stem that gap.”
The Home Office, meanwhile, confirmed ministers had received a report from HMIC last September raising a number of “issues to be addressed” with the Games organising committee, Locog, although it said these had already been dealt with.
A spokesman said: “We asked HMIC to carry out a number of inspections to test that Locog security planning was on track.
“While an early inspection highlighted issues to be addressed, a report in February said that Locog was on track to deliver the required number of security personnel.”
It was following the HMIC report that a review of security requirements led Locog to increase the number of security guards to be supplied by G4S from 2,000 to 10,400, while the value of the contract more than trebled from £86m to £284m.
Speaking yesterday, Ms Harman said Mr Buckles should go, adding that she believed ministers were also at fault.
She said: “I think they have been dangerously incompetent on this and I hope they are going to get themselves sorted out before the Games, and really there is going to have to be a major post-mortem.
“The problem is they lost their focus – the government is such a shambles, they are not doing the basic things the government should be doing – the basic things are security and the economy.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the issue raised questions about the ability of G4S to take on major public sector contracts with organisations such as the police.
She said: “They do look a complete shower at the moment, I think it is shocking what they have done.
“Frankly, I think you have to have an awful lot of scepticism about their ability to deliver a contract – but I think it is not just about G4S. Why on earth did the Home Office not know what was happening?
“Two weeks before the Olympics, it is utter incompetence.
“I would certainly not want to be contracting out core public policing to [G4S], which is what the government is trying to do, I think that’s a big mistake.”
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said it was for the military top brass to decide on any compensation or bonus payments for the troops involved.
He said: “We will take advice from the senior leadership of the armed forces on how most appropriately to recognise the contribution the armed forces are making.
“The armed forces has a very particular ethos of its own.”
He said that he was concentrating on ensuring the troops were given “reasonable” accommodation, with “good food”.
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