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Olympic security 'not a shambles'
Home Secretary Theresa May denied that Olympics security was a shambles after the military was called in to plug a gap left by the failure of private provider G4S.
With just two weeks to go until the opening ceremony, an extra 3,500 servicemen and women are being flown in after G4S said it might not be able to provide enough guards for all the venues.
With more than £100 million wiped off the firm's market value and MPs accusing the company of letting the country down, Mrs May insisted ministers were only told of the "absolute gap in the numbers" on Wednesday.
In its hour of need, the Government turned to the troops, many of whom have recently served in Afghanistan and are facing cuts in the biggest restructuring of the service for decades, to help keep the Olympics safe and secure for up to 10 million spectators.
Warning orders started going out to troops at the weekend, putting them on shortened notice to move.
But Mrs May denied it was a "shambles" and insisted there was "no question of Olympic security being compromised".
Asked whether there would be any financial penalties for G4S on its £284 million contract, Mrs May said the firm's deal was with organisers Locog, but she understood that penalty clauses were included.
A total of 17,000 servicemen and women will now be involved in the Olympics, including 11,800 soldiers, 2,600 sailors and marines, and 2,600 airmen.
Some 11,000 of these will be involved in the security of more than 30 sporting venues and some 70 non-competition venues, including car parks and hotels, while others will carry out specialist support roles including air security, search teams, communications and logistics, among others.
Overall, a 23,700-strong security force for the Games will include a mix of military, private security guards and at least 3,000 unpaid London 2012 volunteers.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond acknowledged the extra burden on military families, but said bringing in extra resources was "prudent" and insisted the deployment "will have no adverse impact on other operations".
"As the venue security exercise has got under way, concerns have arisen about the ability of G4S to deliver the required number of guards for all the venues within the timescales available," Mr Hammond said.
"Ministers have been monitoring this situation and, where necessary, preparing contingency measures.
"G4S has now agreed that it would be prudent to deploy additional military support to provide greater reassurance."
Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "G4S has let the country down and we have literally had to send in the troops."
He asked G4S chief executive Nick Buckles and its chairman Alf Duch-Pedersen to appear before the committee next week to explain the problems.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added that the situation looked like "another Home Office shambles", with G4S falling 25% short of its contract.
The problems come on top of long queues at Heathrow Airport and other issues with inexperienced border staff, Ms Cooper added.
She told Mrs May: "Please get these security problems and these border problems sorted out and stop letting everyone else down."
Even as ministers were outlining the plans in the Commons, Surrey Police Authority suspended its part in a privatisation scheme which could have involved G4S.
Members raised concerns that potential Police and Crime Commissioners were now actively campaigning to put a stop to business partnering.
G4S, the largest employer on the London Stock Exchange with more than 650,000 staff worldwide, admitted on Wednesday night it was experiencing "some issues in relation to workforce supply and scheduling" and had accepted that the Government was turning to the military for extra help.
A spokeswoman added: "This has been an unprecedented and very complex security recruitment, training and deployment exercise which has been carried out to a tight timescale."
Its workforce will conduct physical searches, operate X-ray machines and carry out perimeter searches at the Games.
Retired Colonel Richard Kemp, a former UK commander in Afghanistan, said the development would hit troops "very hard indeed", with many having just returned from Afghanistan.
"We shouldn't forget also that many of these soldiers are people who have been told in the last few days that they are going to be made redundant, that their regiments are being scrapped and they are under great pressure already," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"The wider morale in the armed forces now is very fragile and this will simply add to that fragility."
Assistant commissioner Chris Allison, head of Scotland Yard's security operation, has previously insisted the sporting event will be a "blue Games", despite the presence of the military and surface-to-air missiles being positioned near the Olympic Park.
London Mayor Boris Johnson added that everyone always expected the military to be involved and there were no problems with security.
"Go to Wimbledon, you'll see the military doing a fantastic job of making sure everybody is safe and searched and properly looked after," he said.
Julie Nesbit, chair of the Constables Committee of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "It is outrageous that a private company who are being paid the best part of £300 million have failed to fill at least 3,500 security roles just two weeks from the start of the Olympic Games.
"This kind of sloppy approach to our national security is unacceptable and goes to show the perils of policing on the cheap and replacing fully trained police officers with privately employed contractors accountable to shareholders and profit margins."
In a letter to Mr Buckles, Mr Vaz said: "I am writing to you regarding the Olympic security situation and the shortfall in Olympic security guards provided by G4S.
"The Committee is very concerned about this situation and would like to call you to appear on Tuesday 17th July at 12pm. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday 17th July at 12pm."