The head of the U.K. Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee, which is examining G4S Plc’s failure to provide enough security staff for the London Olympics, questioned the home secretary’s account of the affair.
Keith Vaz, from the opposition Labour Party, said Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May had informed lawmakers that she only knew of G4S’s difficulties on July 11, even though a letter sent by May yesterday shows her office was aware on June 27, after a meeting of an Olympics security committee.
“The home secretary told the house that she only became aware of a shortfall on July 11,” Vaz said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “However, this letter clearly states they were warned of a possible shortfall in guards on June 27 at the Olympic Security Board, two weeks before.”
The announcement last week by G4S that it wouldn’t be able to deliver all the 10,000 security guards it had pledged to deliver for the games has cast the biggest shadow over the preparations for the Olympics, which begin on July 27. The government was forced to assign an extra 3,500 soldiers to fill the gap.
Vaz said May’s letter shows that “we now know there must have been serious concerns as some 725 military personnel were deployed and contingencies started to be made before July 11.”
Labour’s home-affairs spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper, asked why May had waited until now to give details of what the government knew and when.
“The home secretary was asked repeatedly when she and the Home Office were warned about problems at G4S, and she repeatedly gave everyone the impression they had only known since July 11,” Cooper said in an e-mailed statement last night. “She needs to explain urgently how she justifies having given Parliament and the public such a selective account, and why the Home Office were so slow to respond.”
Ministers agreed yesterday that there was no need to deploy extra troops for the games on top of the 17,000 already helping to provide security, though contingency plans were made for more soldiers to be brought in if needed.
“We can confirm that we are putting a further 1,200 troops on standby as a sensible and prudent measure to provide resilience to the Olympic security effort,” the defense ministry said in an e-mailed statement. “This is in addition to the military contributions already announced and will help rebuild our contingency.”
G4S said in a statement last night that it “continues to focus huge resource and effort” on increasing the number of security staff at the games.
“We are making good progress, with daily increases in the number of people working at Olympic venues as well as in the number of people who have completed the necessary training and related accreditation processes,” the Crawley, southern-England based company said.
In her letter, May outlined 585.2 million pounds ($920 million) of contracts that the Home Office currently holds with G4S, a figure that doesn’t include all policing contracts. Chief Executive Officer Nick Buckles said on July 17 his company’s deals with the department are worth about 600 million pounds.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said yesterday the government should review the ability of G4S to deliver policing contracts before any more deals are signed with the beleaguered company.
Prime Minister David Cameron repeated his pledge to make G4S pay a financial price for its failure.
“If a company doesn’t fulfill its contract the company should be gone after for that money,” he told reporters yesterday in Afghanistan, where he was visiting British troops. “It’s very important that we allow them to carry out the role they are contracted to deliver. We will do what is necessary and contracts that aren’t fulfilled will have very tough financial consequences.”