Fears over privatisation of nuclear guards

03 Mar 2017

PCS has expressed serious concerns over plans to privatise the Ministry of Defence Guard Service (MGS), many of whom guard the nuclear submarines at Faslane and the Trident warhead storage site at Coulport.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering attracting bids from private security firms, such as G4S and Mitie, to run the service which currently employs 2,100 civilian staff, many of whom are PCS members. The MGS provides unarmed guarding duties at MoD sites throughout the UK but the key sites on the Clyde are undoubtedly the most high profile and pose the most notable security questions.

The MGS was formed following the Deal Barracks bomb attack in 1989, in which 10 soldiers died, after the subsequent report identified serious failures in the private security firm provision at the site and recommended an in-house MoD guarding set-up.

We believe that this is an extremely dangerous path that the MoD is pursuing, risking the security at such important sites for negligible financial saving. We’re all aware of the appalling record of private security provision, including G4S’s inability to provide basic steward cover for the London Olympics in 2012, and their charging, along with Serco, for the non-existent tagging of offenders. There are also licensing and security clearance issues that are unique to the MoD and which will complicate matters further.

Possible lapses

The case for going to the market and inviting bids is awaiting Cabinet Office approval and the expectation is that this will be granted. The MoD has its own in-house bid team which will compete against the private firms seeking to run the service and which is backed by the MoD trade unions. We remain sceptical, however, at the resources that will be allocated to this team and just how serious an effort the MoD will make to retain control of the service.

We further maintain that any dilution of the crucial service provided by MGS could cause future serious security lapses at sites where nuclear hardware and material are present.

No one wants to see someone guarding Tesco on a Monday and nuclear subs on a Tuesday. These sites need a dedicated and professional guarding service and many of our MGS members have previous military experience. The simple question is – why put the safety of these sites at risk for the peanuts savings on offer?

Don't play fast and loose with security

MP Brendan O'Hara (SNP, Argyll and Bute), whose constituency includes Faslane and Coulport, met with PCS last week to discuss our concerns.

In an article on his website this week he said: "Coming only days after promises to plough further public money into the Trident renewal programme and the increase of personnel to be transferred to the Faslane base over the next few years, we cannot – must not – play fast and loose with security at the base. The local community and the staff at both Faslane and Coulport must have absolute confidence that the facilities are secured by the very best security services available. This must be matched by the investments that are being placed in the renewal of Trident."

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