Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 820 - 832)



  820.  I promise you I did not hear that, somebody has pinched my idea.
  (Mr Sharp) The man who organised it should organise the railways.

  821.  There is a long history of fear of the military, mainly in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. Do you think that the private sector would welcome a more visible military presence, not least to provide public reassurance in the event of a significant threat?
  (Mr Gamble) I think generally they would. I understand your point about the fear that used to exist about the military but it is a very much smaller establishment than it was and I certainly do not see that as a major problem. The fact is that it is one of the institutions in the UK which has delivered the goods time and time again.

  822.  What about the armed police presence around the City of London, did that cause any great anxiety?
  (Mr Wood) If I could go back to your previous question first. There is not a reluctance any more, certainly right the way across people I speak to and certainly within the sector that I work. When they see it in other countries where they visit where the military has a more dynamic and upfront role in dealing with these things, I do not think that fear is there any more. I think there has to be a happy level between when they are used and how they are used and whether they are used in an armed stance or whether they are not in an armed stance. Other than that, I do not think there is any great issue about them. Certainly one of the areas where there would be a welcomed presence is that in terms of airport security and enhancing airport security. I think that is something that is at the forefront of not only the minds of UK business people but UK travellers and the general perception about how airport security is dealt with. In terms of moving on to the police, the armed police presence was welcomed, very much so. I had people commenting to me how they felt more safe and secure after September 11 when they saw the increased police patrols and the visibility. I do not think that rests with having armed policemen, I think that goes out to having policemen on the beat and actually having a visible police presence on our streets which is an enormous step forWood in reassuring the public.

  823.  What about the military key point defence of critical points in the private sector? Should this be a private sector responsibility or a military one?
  (Mr Wood) I think it has to be a joint one. Having led one of the UK military key point survey teams I would commend its use as soon as possible.

  824.  As we are moving into private protection, just one brief set of questions. In terms of dealing with crises we have spent a lot of time talking about what would happen if there was an attack but we have not spent a great deal of time on how you could prevent an attack. The private protection industry has been to a certain degree a night watchman but thankfully it has now matured and is more sophisticated and the security is splendid on the technology side, regulation at long last has been passed and will be implemented over the next few years. Some of you, Mr Wood, will be hirers of private security. Does your organisation give much thought to the calibre of private sector protection in the form of VIP protection, drivers that have gone through courses in executive protection, physical security, security shredders? Have you seen any greater role that a competent regulated private sector could do in some of these things we are talking about largely in terms of the police or the military?
  (Mr Wood) I think that the private security industry has a role to play but it has to grow in its strength having gone through a period of where we are going to see the regulation introduced and how it is going to operate. Standards need to be clearly set for how the private security industry is actually employed and what levels of competency we see. I still think that the underlying issue with the private security sector comes back down to the rate of pay and I do not think it ventures much beyond that. We pay above the odds and insist on a much higher level of security from the security industry that we have provided to us. By not penny pinching on what we are looking for and what we are paying we get that better level of competency. There are too many companies that spring up very quickly and disappear just as quickly and they do not pay and have an infrastructure and reasonable management structure to be able to control them and they do not look at core competencies of what they are getting and providing to industry.

Mr Roy

  825.  What is the example of the pay?
  (Mr Wood) It varies from area to area but it is not much beyond the minimum basic pay in some areas. I have been involved in two—

  826.  Minimum basic pay or minimum national wage?
  (Mr Wood) The minimum national wage, in some areas it is not much beyond that. In the two organisations I have been involved with we have gone out beyond that and paid more and that has to happen locally because it is very much a local situation, you have got to find what the market rate is and then step above it. In addition, if you lay down and work closely with the private security companies and set your expectations about you are wanting NVQ trained people, you are wanting people who can think on their feet and you are not just paying peanuts, you are not going to get monkeys, then that is where you get the significant improvement. Whether you want to think about extending their role into supporting the police and supporting the military is another issue altogether and I think it needs very careful consideration. We have seen the response to the Home Secretary's proposals on Woodens and neighbourhood activity constables, or whatever they are going to be called, without real powers and training and how they have been received. You have to be careful about those sorts of issues. There is a role for the private security sector, that role needs to continue to be developed as does their training, their competency and the regulation of them.
  (Mr Sharp) Security, like a lot of these issues, becomes a grudge purchase of course and, therefore, people will not want to pay. Maybe the insurance industry has a role to play whereby if you want to be protected and you are expecting to have a level of security in place, that should be competent, qualified security.
  (Mr Gamble) That is right.

  827.  Is business continuity a grudge payment as well? Is there a parallel between what you are doing and what the security industry is doing?
  (Mr Sharp) There is a degree of that, yes.

  828.  It is a hell of a bigger grudge in your case than hiring a security guard, is it not?
  (Mr Sharp) Oh, yes. It is a question of really convincing people of the positive benefits. If it is done correctly then you actually can restructure the organisation and get the benefits and be able to sell that, which some of the major companies have done. This is something that we can do to guarantee continuity of supply and you can be very positive in selling that and use it for competitive advantage.

  829.  At the moment you know the better firms have two days formal training and one day on the job training. I am not certain whether in two days you can quite master the intricacies of private security or whether you could detect a bomb is debatable. I would hope that in any future syllabus construction training for dealing with weapons of mass destruction should form an essential element in the syllabus.
  (Mr Sharp) In terms of business continuity we are certainly encouraging qualified people and that is what we are about as an Institute, qualifications. We are now moving towards academic qualifications being available for that. We would like to see something incorporated into every business studies course, that people are aware of the security risk and continuity is part of their ongoing management training.

  830.  Anybody could set themselves up, I presume, as a consultant in business continuity. Do they do that?
  (Mr Sharp) They could. Interestingly, the major organisations are now beginning to demand qualified people.

  831.  And what qualifications would be required?
  (Mr Sharp) They are asking for membership of our organisation. Barclays Bank will only employ people who are members of our organisation in continuity.

  832.  There will be some mugs out there, the same kind of people who buy double glazing, who would look at somebody with a purported certificate.
  (Mr Sharp) Of course.

  Chairman: Thank you very much everyone, that was really very interesting. If there is any supplementary information in your files, as you can see we are at the bottom end of a steep learning curve and we have to learn very quickly, we would be very, very grateful to receive any further information. Thank you so much.

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