Last night, the Master and Wardens of The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals hosted the organisation’s inaugural Annual Security Lecture. Brian Sims comments on the main points of a superb speech delivered by The Right Honourable Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones.
Not surprisingly, the City of London has always relied upon good security to protect its people, property and world-renowned reputation. Even more so, perhaps, in a post-9/11 and 7/7 landscape that has borne an economic collapse the like of which many of us have never experienced in our entire lifetime.
Ten years ago, the security sector was bereft of any Livery-based lineage and, in the City at least, there was a burgeoning desire to create (and then nurture) a culture that would secure – on an ongoing basis – the basic principles which protect people, property and liberty.
On 26 August 1999, The Guild of Security Professionals was registered with the Chamberlain of the City of London and, on 18 November that same year, an inaugural meeting was held to plan the establishment of a dedicated Guild.
Come the end of 2000, membership had increased to 90. The Windsor Herald designed a special Coat of Arms and The Queen’s Chaplain at The Tower of London was appointed Honorary Chaplain to the Guild.
Then, on 6 January 2004, the Guild became a recognised Company of the City of London without Grant of Livery by order of the Court of Aldermen of the City. The Court was petitioned in January 2008 and, just over one month later, the Court of Aldermen declared The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals to be the 108th Livery Company of the City of London.
The Royal Charter and Hear4U
Today, the Company boasts an impressive 343 members (with 163 Liverymen in the ranks), but there’s no resting on laurels. The organisation has already petitioned the Privy Council for a Royal Charter, while its Hear4U Benevolent Fund – devised and run in association with, and supported by, Security Management Today Online – continues to help members of the security profession who’ve fallen on hard times back to work as quickly as possible.
To its great credit, The Worshipful Company has now begun what it hopes will be an annual fixture in the discerning security professional’s calendar – a security lecture. Something along the lines of The Dimbleby Lectures that ran when black and white television was the next best thing to sliced bread.
The inaugural event was staged last night at 9 Little Trinity Lane, London EC4V 2AD – the location of The Painters’ Hall, itself just a stone’s throw from Mansion House London Underground station.
I was there for two reasons. One, because I’d received a personal invitation from Past Master Peter French, the other because the guest speaker was Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones DCMG, the shadow security minister.
Given the lame excuses we’ve had from the current administration in relation to the lack of spend on the military, what’s being done to combat the insidious creep of cyber crime and the never-ending threat of terrorism, I was more than a little interested to hear what this working peer would have to say on such matters. Particularly so with a General Election just around the corner.
Much of what was said by the Baroness resonated with me to such an extent that I wanted to share it with you. While you’re reading what follows, bear in mind that this is not about party politics. Rather, it’s about coming to terms with reality, being honest with ourselves and doing something to make this world a safe and secure environment for the generations that follow.
Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones: the CV
First of all, by way of setting the scene permit me to relate a little detail about the Baroness.
Pauline Neville-Jones was educated at Leeds Girls’ High School and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (where she studied modern history). From 1963 through to 1996, Neville-Jones was a career member of the UK Diplomatic Service, during which time she served in British Missions in Rhodesia, Singapore, Washington DC and Bonn.
Between 1977 and 1982, Neville-Jones served as head of the defence and overseas secretariat in the Cabinet Office (more of which anon), and as deputy secretary to the Cabinet. 1993-1994 saw a 12-month spell as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
From 1994 until her ‘retirement’, Neville-Jones took on the role of political director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (in which capacity she ably led the British delegation to the Dayton negotiations on the Bosnia peace settlement).
An appointment as a BBC governor followed in January 1998. From 2002 through to 2005, Neville-Jones was non-executive chairman of QinetiQ, the (then) part-owned UK/US defence company. January 2006 saw her appointment as chairman of the Conservative Party’s policy group on national security.
Today, Baroness Neville-Jones of Hutton Roof in the County of Cumbria sits on the Conservative front bench as shadow security minister and is the national security advisor to David Cameron, the Tory leader and (potentially) the next Prime Minister.
An impressive CV, then, but would there be a delivery to match? So many politicians let us down after such a big build-up, whether that be on television or on The Hustings, but Baroness Neville-Jones is not of that ilk. Her speech was quite brilliant, hitting not just one but a whole box of nails slap-bang square on the head.
Protecting people, property and liberty
A few pleasant words about The Worshipful Company passed by her lips – there was mention of support for innovative products and solutions that “protect people, property and liberty” etc – before the Baroness waded into the Government over its woeful neglect of our Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
“Security and national defence does not come cheap,” said the Baroness. “There’s a growing recognition and alarm about the huge hole that currently exists in our defence budget. This doesn’t square with the military’s growing procurement list, and the increasing cost of the equipment it needs to purchase.”
So what would the Tories do to square that particular circle? “We will have to do things differently, and would want to do things differently,” expressed Neville-Jones.
“For a start, I want to see security manufacturing remain in this country. We need to retain our excellent engineering and design capabilities. It’s fair to say that we may have to get used to having 80% of our desired capacity in place at any one time. In a nutshell, we need different, faster and better procurement.”
The State and total security
“The State can never hope to provide total security,” explained the Baroness, clad from head to toe in black hues as if in mourning for the Brown administration. “If it ever tried to do so it would alter society in a fundamental manner, and not for the best. It’s fair to say that security cannot always be a top-down exercise. The difficulty all of us face all of the time is how to make people want to engage with the security sector in a meaningful way.”
Turning specifically towards the City of London for a moment, the Baroness explained that much has been done to strengthen this region of the Capital. Necessarily so. It’s a region of massive strategic importance (as demonstrated on a regular basis by the excellent City Security publication).
“London is a global hub with an iconic status,” opined the Baroness, “and we must be careful not to divorce the City from the rest of the Capital. We need London to be seen as a coherent whole, particularly when it comes to security provision.”
As we all know, during an economic crisis like the one we find ourselves embroiled within at present, political extremism has a tendency to come to the fore. “The prime threat at the moment emanates from Islamist extremism,” added the Baroness. “A successful attack could damage confidence in the City still further.”
One wonders where we would be if such a scenario were ever played out, and yet there’s still plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that guarding companies are picking up work at ludicrous rates right in the heart of The Square Mile.
Downgrading the threat level
Of course, back in July the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre changed the UK’s threat level from severe to substantial. Almost in parallel, the Government’s long-awaited counter-terrorism strategy update – in the shape of CONTEST2 – duly appeared.
“I’m not sure that much progress has been made with the Prevent element of that strategy,” said the Baroness. “There has been a considerable focus on security for crowded places but, no matter the scenario, one truism is always there – we must never become complacent nor over-confident in any way.”
That’s a very salient point indeed, even more so for City firms who are under threat from all sorts of groups, from the Animal Rights movement through to anti-Capitalists and the aforementioned extremists who’d just love to cause mayhem in one of the world’s three largest financial centres.
Baroness Neville-Jones also suggested that we should learn as much as we can from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Lahore.
“These attacks have worried city authorities the world over. What characterised the Mumbai atrocity was the deployment of small attack and assault teams. They were prolonged, running attacks and battles that brought the city to a standstill for three days or more. It took days for the authorities to regain control of the major hotels, for example.”
Interestingly, the Baroness also mentioned the issue of extreme weather conditions and how they can affect security. “I’m genuinely concerned that the Government has not paid enough attention to natural hazards [which formed a significant strand of the Pitt Report, of course]. There are most certainly unrealised synergies between security and natural hazards that must be addressed.”
What would the Tories do, then?
Then we came to that portion of the speech everyone had waited to hear. Assuming that a Conservative Government is voted back into power next May at the General Election, what are that party’s security policies likely to be?
“For a start, we want to allow individuals to be more involved in determining their own security regime,” explained Baroness Neville-Jones. “That would be part of our strategic direction. Proper strategic direction on security is based on solid organisation. To some extent the Cabinet Office seems to have lost its way of late, but a Conservative Government would put that right.”
Baroness Neville-Jones was so astute when suggesting that, whenever a different type of threat rears its ugly head, the current administration’s knee-jerk reaction has been to create a new body for addressing that threat without any regard for organisations already in place. The Critical National Infrastructure agenda was cited as a case in point.
“The military is best placed for the essential command and control role,” asserted the Baroness. “They need to be in a position to play an enhanced role but, at the moment, we can only rely on the fully-trained personnel who have not been deployed abroad. In other words, at this moment in time the Army’s availability cannot be guaranteed in numbers. As a result, the first responders cannot build the military into their forward planning.”
The whole issue of cyber security has, almost inevitably, ascended the corporate agenda. Baroness Neville-Jones preferred to talk about “cyber insecurity”, and she was perfectly right to do so.
“The cyber security plans laid down by the Government earlier this year did not go far enough. The Government and the citizens of this country are not geared up to fight cyber-crime. The larger finance houses will be, but they’re still vulnerable to attacks. Close and specialist attention needs to be paid to this subject.”
One of the basic problems here is that private sector organisations are never that well disposed towards talking about attacks perpetrated against them. There’s reputational damage to be considered and, as the Baroness explained, there’s really no one central office to which those attacks may be reported.
Serious level of ignorance within Government
“To be quite frank, there is a serious level of ignorance within Government about the vulnerability of its own systems,” outlined Baroness Neville-Jones, who then waxed lyrical about a Conservative Government that would establish Cyber-Security Operations Centres as a central conduit for all attack information.
“We need a common operational agenda and threat assessment in order to realise an agreed situational awareness across the nation.”
The focus of Baroness Neville-Jones’ speech then moved on to the role of the smaller business in security planning.
“Business continuity planning in such organisations can still be primitive. Also, management will tend to forget about the supply chain and its security and safety. That said, some excellent work has been done – and is being done – by local resilience Forums to make sure these issues are firmly on the agenda.”
For its part, the Government should make information about the risks facing SMEs readily available at all times and, more importantly, guide them as to how they can respond. “The National Risk Register does not yet provide this information,” said the Baroness. “This is the kind of detail that simply must be dispersed or we’ll always be stuck in this vicious circle.”
Clearly, much thought needs to be given to how companies can fit into an agreed and overarching local approach to security.
Concentrated training and co-operation
While the country is vulnerable to numerous security threats, so too is the City. “The threats can be ameliorated by concentrated training and co-operation,” outlined the Baroness.
“I would say again that the Government cannot provide nor guarantee total security,” she continued. “This is not about the State abdicating its responsibility to its citizens. Rather, it’s about true security and resources being activated and energised by trust and co-operation in direct support of shared goals.”
According to Baroness Neville-Jones, the single biggest deterrent we have to combat the terrorist threat is convicting those who are guilty and putting them behind bars. There has been success here of late with the Court case involving the liquid bomb plotters who were scheming to destroy commercial airlines and wreak as much havoc as occurred on 9/11. If that plot had succeeded, there would have been massive political repercussions.
The Baroness was also very clear on the state of policing in this country. “Too many warranted officers are stuck in the office while the PCSO’s patrol the streets. That’s not right. We have presided over a situation where anti-social behaviour has been allowed to destroy our society. This problem is widespread.” Indeed it is. Again, only the sternest of sentences for those convicted are good enough. The Judiciary’s ‘slap on the wrist’ culture must be halted.
“One of the problems is that, as a nation, we are riddled with standards,” explained the Baroness. “There are different security standards for different airports and ports, etc. There is a demonstrable need for interoperability on a much wider scale than is the case at present.”
Afghanistan: is there an answer?
The Afghanistan situation arose in open Q&A, and to her credit the Baroness didn’t dodge the subject. “Obviously, we would prefer the country not to be in the position it is now in terms of the military involvement, but that is where we are.”
As far as Baroness Neville-Jones is concerned, the “eye was off the ball for far too long”. The strategy in Afghanistan was not correct. “We cannot pull out yet, though. The political ramifications of doing so now would be huge. The security threat here on home shores would deteriorate further.”
In Afghanistan, we simply must not confuse insurgency with terrorism. What we have there at the moment is the former, but is it too late to get our act together? For Baroness Neville-Jones, the answer is an emphatic: “No!”
The topic of piracy on the high seas has been prevalent of late, with a spate of hijackings, thefts and physical assaults on crew members. What can be done about this? Some pointers were given last week at The Security Institutes Annual Conference by Cyrus Mody (manager of ICC Commercial Crime Services at the International Maritime Bureau). Look out for a review on SMT Online in due course.
“Pirates operate in an unconventional space,” suggested Baroness Neville-Jones. “We need to get to the villages where they reside so that we can catch the pirates before they put to sea. We should not abdicate our responsibility here as a member of the global community. The role of the Royal Navy is to protect and secure. It’s not just about the nuclear deterrent. The Royal Navy should be seen as one of the responsible policemen of the high seas.”
Perhaps the bankers can sleep soundly after all…
Despite the fact that their lavish lifestyles and profligate dealing on the trading floors has brought the country to its economic knees, it’s good to know that the Boys in Blue haven’t taken umbrage.
June’s crime figures for the City of London were very positive indeed, with fewer burglaries, less car crime and less violent crime recorded. Residential burglaries were down from 11 in 2008 nto 4 this year. There were 71 reported incidents of violent crime. The June 2008 figure was 106.
Meanwhile, a 30% reduction on last year’s number of thefts from customers in licensed premises occurred following a successful operation to target organised gangs of criminals.
In effect, the City of London has witnessed 387 less offences than this time last year – an overall reduction of nearly 20%.
An official blurb states: “If you work or live in the City, it’s important you tell the City of London Police your concerns so that they can work in partnership to resolve these issues.”
OK. My concern is this. Why is it that politicians and bankers who have either swindled or squandered funds (and caused the economic mess that’s costing innocent people their jobs and/or homes) are not being put before the Courts?
Are they any different to us ‘normal’ people? No. Aside from the fact that they don’t have any morals, that is.
Until next time…