James Kirkup and Paul Kelso – Telegraph.co.uk July 15, 2012
Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, confirmed that the Government has contingency plans for a further late deployment.
He spoke as Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, admitted that the existing deployment of 17,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen is undermining Armed Forces training programmes.
Ministers and Games planners are struggling to get a grip of security precautions for the Olympics after G4S, a private security contractor, admitted it is well short of the 10,400 guards it is being paid to provide.
Some 3,500 military personnel were drafted in at short notice last week to fill the gaps, and G4S’s recruitment and training has been exposed as deficient.
Mr Hunt told the BBC that it was “completely normal” for a firm like G4S to be unable to deliver on its commitments and praised the company as “honourable”. However, he added, ministers cannot rule out having to send even more troops into action over the Games. “We have contingency plans for all eventualities,” Mr Hunt said.
G4S has so far provided only around 4,000 security personnel for the Games, which start next Friday, although it says thousands more are in the late stages of training.
Nick Buckles, the firm’s chief executive, will be questioned tomorrow over the £284 million contract he signed to provide security staff for London 2012. He has admitted his job is now on the line.
Lord Coe, the chairman of London 2012, yesterday insisted that the problem had arisen because many of those recruited by G4S had simply not come forward to work as they had agreed to.
“The question [for G4S] was not about supply, because they interviewed 100,000 people, but that when they expected people to turn up they did not materialise. That was when we realised we needed to fill the gap,” Lord Coe said.
“Security has always been at the heart of this project and for six years we have been working on it sequentially. But when people simply do not turn up it is a problem.” That view was echoed by the Dorset Police Federation, which said that Royal Marines have taken over security duties at the Olympic sailing centre in Weymouth & Portland because barely 40 per cent of allocated private guards had turned up for work.
Ministers have promised that troops will not suffer financial hardship because of their 11th-hour deployment, but there are growing political calls for G4S to fund bonus payments for military personnel forced to fill gaps left by its failings.
However, Mr Hammond yesterday played down the prospect of special awards, stressing that the Armed Forces exist for such contingencies. He insisted that the extra deployment would have “no direct impact” on the operation in Afghanistan, but admitted that training was being disrupted.
He said: “When we have to make people available for a task such as the Olympics that has an impact on other business-as-usual, day-to-day training activity and so on, and it will take us a little while afterwards to get everything back on track, but it won’t affect what’s going on in Afghanistan.”