by Ray Fleming

G4S is the world's biggest security company, employing 657'000 people in 125 countries. In Britain It has a 7.5bn pound turnover of which one quarter comes from UK government contracts for running prisons and childrens' homes, guarding airports and monitoring 14'000 tagged offenders. It is easy to understand why the London Olympics Organising Committee thought G4S was a safe bet to recruit and train the 20'000 security staff needed at the Games in return for a 553 million pounds contract. On the other hand it is not easy to understand how news of its failure to find and train the number of guards needed for the job came to public attention only two weeks before the opening ceremony. The responsible minister, Home Secretary Theresa May, would not tell the House of Commons how long she had known; instead she claimed that the Army's last-minute deployment of 3'500 extra troops was all part of “meticulous planning” for the “largest and most complex operation in this country since World War Two”. How fortunate we were in 1939-45 that there were no companies like G4S to which winning the war could be devolved.

The absolutely essential thing now is to concentrate on ensuring that the emergency measures are watertight. G4S can be brought to book when the Games are over; it should get no new contracts for a very long time.

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