Clydebank MP Gemma Doyle has slammed the UK government over “mismanagement of security for the Olympic Games”.
It follows news of 3,500 extra troops being drafted in to cover the London Olympics, amid fears contractor G4S may not have enough trained staff. The additional troops will take the total number of military personnel covering the games to 17,000.
The West Dunbartonshire MP – who serves as the Labour opposition’s shadow minister for defence personnel, welfare and veterans – demanded urgent answers from the coalition government. The move, which sees leave cancelled and troops’ family plans disrupted, was forced when G4S said it had “encountered some delays” in processing applicants through the final stages of training.
Ms Doyle said: “With little more than a fortnight before the Olympics begin, the company the government hired to make the Games secure has admitted it has failed and won’t be able to provide the security staff we need for a safe Olympics. The government should have managed this far better and kept a check on whether this company was going to be able to do its job properly.
“More importantly, at a time when the government is cutting the armed forces, this shows just how vital they still are at home, not just abroad. We must know whether this affects army commitments elsewhere and which units are providing people.
“Many soldiers, including The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders – who are soon to be axed or down-graded – have had to cancel their well-earned holidays to help the Government save face. Now they are being thanked half-heartedly with second-rate tickets for the very event they are helping take place. It is insulting.”
Home Secretary Thereasa May, the cabinet minister responsible for internal security, was called to the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday, July 12) to answer MPs’ questions on the situation. She told the House: “There is no question of the security of the Olympics being compromised.
“Our troops are highly skilled and highly trained and this task is the most important facing our nation today. They stand ready to do their duty whatever the nation may ask.”
Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, confirmed he had authorised the deployment of extra troops. Saying military chiefs supported the move, he promised it would not impact other operations.
The defence secretary added: “We will ensure that all those taking part receive their full leave entitlement, even if it has to be rescheduled, and no-one involved will be out of pocket due to cancelled personal arrangements. All deployed personnel will be appropriately supported.”
Downing Street expressed the government’s anger with G4S, who have been paid £284 million to provide security at the Games. A spokesman said the firm could face financial consequences for failing to fulfil its contract, but could not confirm if they will be made to repay the taxpayer for the cost of deploying extra troops.
West Dunbartonshire MP Gemma Doyle believes the issue demonstrates a failure by government to keep track of contractors with crucial roles in staging the Olympics. She said: ”We’re all grateful we can call on the armed forces to keep our streets safe for the Games, but this complete mismanagement begs the question of whether the government have done all they can to ensure a safe and secure Olympics.
“Serious questions need to be asked on why this problem has emerged at such short notice. We’ve known about the Olympics for seven years; the government should’ve been able to do better.”