NEWS

Multiple Scandals Topple Head of Britain's Security Licensing Authority

By Matthew Harwood

The chief executive of Britain's Security Industry Authority (SIA), which licenses private security guards and bouncers, has quit after Home Secretary Jacqui Smith asked for his resignation after learning licensing staff did not have the requisite security clearances.

The BBC reports that Michael Wilson, head of the SIA, will leave his post on November 13; The Times (of London) expects he will receive a payout.

A Home Office review last week discovered that 38 SIA employees that determine which applicants receive security licenses did not have the proper security clearances. Employees that handle sensitive information, such as criminal records, are to undergo an enhanced screening.

The Times reports:

In a written Commons statement Alan Campbell, a junior Home Office Minister, admitted that the body had failed to check whether 38 temporary workers hired to clear a backlog had the correct clearance. Mr Campbell said the staff had been “removed from SIA premises” while security checks were carried out.

According to The Independent, 32 out of the 38 workers were cleared to work yesterday. The remaining six still await their clearances.

The SIA vets security guards for the Home Office which then places security staff at positions in Whitehall departments and in the Metropolitan Police. Not clearing its licensing staff was just the latest mistake during Michael Wilson's tenure as head of the SIA.

Last year, it was discovered that the SIA granted security licenses to over 5,000 illegal immigrants. Many were found in sensitive security positions, such as guarding Prime Minister Gordon Brown's car as well as working as security guards for the Metropolitan Police Service.

Then this October, the National Audit Office discovered the SIA had overspent its budget by £17 million and had not been tracking who was working in the security sector.

Conservatives have pounced on Smith, saying she does not take responsibility for her mistakes."Yet again an official takes responsibility while the minister ducks it," said Dominic Grieve, the shadow Home Secretary.

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