The UK Minister for Security, Mr James Brokenshire MP, visited India recently leading a large homeland security business delegation to Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad to promote the UK security industry’s capabilities and to further business links between the two countries in the security sector. The companies on the mission cover a wide variety of capabilities across the areas of counter-terrorism, border security, policing and safer cities. Mr Brokenshire met key decision makers including police, paramilitary and government officials, and a wide variety of potential business partners for the UK companies during his visit and also addressed a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) audience at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi.
SECURITY TODAY’S Group editor GB Singh and Executive Editor Anil Sharma met Mr Brokenshire for an exclusive conversation on Homeland Security and various facets of security in UK and the agenda of the first ever delegation of this level visiting India. Excerpts from the Interview:
What brings you to India in this official capacity?
Well, this is the first trade delegation of this kind that we have embarked on. We have around 25 companies that are a part of this delegation comprising some small niche size players, middle level companies as well as the large players. What also brings us here is a combination of three elements. First we published a paper last year on the defence and security industry where we emphasized the essence of the industry in a way that it hasn’t been done before. Our ministry had not been engaged like the ministry of defence with defence related companies so there was a change in emphasis in my department and relations with the private security industry. Secondly we cannot ignore the fact that the success of Olympics and the huge challenge it was for us on security front and the role of various companies that were engaged in assisting the home department in enabling this security. Security is one issue where India and Britain haven’t coordinated a lot earlier but now I think it is the right time to do so. Also because we recognise that we all face similar challenges and threats on domestic security. And we think there are strong partnerships that can be fostered for mutual benefits.
UK has very severe privacy issues but city surveillance projects are operative everywhere. How do you balance the situation there?
Yes, we have very large investments in CCTV systems for governmental organisations but surveillance needs to be seen as supportive for security and not as a spying tool. Legislations were carried out which will lead to a new code of practice which will also establish standards of CCTV surveillance. The effort is to ensure that CCTV is seen as a positive influence rather than a maligned one. It should have the confidence of the public. It’s now been seen as a tool to solve crime and prevent it. We are conscious of the sensitivity issues. Hence the need for a code of practice that will ensure a balance will be struck on the subject.
Do you view CCTV as a post mortem implement rather than a preventive one?
I think it’s a question of how it is used. And it’s a question of the monitoring professional that sits behind the CCTV. The CCTV camera in itself dos not provide the overall assurance package. The complete package along with response from police provides the protection and pre-empting of crime. Just like during the Olympics we had a perfect synergy with police and private security company and military sitting along side carrying out monitoring and assessing work. So if used properly it can be pre emptive and preventive. But again it is all a part of an over all package and it needs to be seen like that. But yes, we are continuing to look at a way to make CCTV more effective in preventive tasks as well as using it as an evidence after a crime has happened.
For all this there would be a need of high degree of training and awareness.
Yes, that’s right and there are very specific standards that need to be adhered to. Especially with those involved in monitoring of CCTV.
Are these standards altered or developed to suit conditions that may emerge subsequently?
What we have done is that we have appointed a CCTV commissioner who is independent of government and whose role would be to monitor the application of the code of practice. To look at standards issue. CCTV can also be seen as a forensic tool. We saw that during the riots we had in London two years back where CCTV was instrumental in identifying and prosecutions happened entirely on the basis of images that the CCTV provided. That way CCTV was almost a forensic tool that helped in identifying individuals directly involved in the disturbances. Now the CCTV commissioner will have the responsibility of telling the government what all is needed for more effective surveillance system. He will also work alongside our Information Commissioner who in turn will also be studying the privacy and freedom issues and to ensure that data in that broader sense is not misused. The combination of these two individuals will provide a stronger situation where we can get more out of the CCTV systems.
Is the CCTV commissioner a government appointee and is he from the private security industry or a retired government officer?
The CCTV commissioner is a government appointee but he is independent of us in the sense he makes his own recommendations to us. The CCTV commissioner is also our forensic commissioner and because of his earlier role it makes sense to have him as a CCTV commissioner too. It’s an evolving situation and we are very keenly watching what this new role can do for us.
How does the home office interface with the private security industry in Britain?
One of the recommendations that came from our white paper or policy documentation was to have a bridge between government and security industry. We will be having a senior person in place who will play this role in linkage between the two. That person has not been appointed yet but we are studying the role carefully. We also have our Centre for Applied Science and Technology which is a home office funded and which is looking for new innovations for security. And they carry out partner programmes with the private security industry. They also work on standards so that we can rely on them subsequently. We are working on more such relationships so that we have a healthy security sector so that we can use its knowledge and put it to good use.
We have discussed technology but there is a human element involved in security as well. There is also a very vibrant man guarding sector. And while standards on say people manning the monitoring of cameras are well laid out in UK, its not so here?
Yes, we are very conscious about standards in training on things like CCTV monitoring or handling screening equipment for example when you are having your bags screened at an airport. It’s training that enables them to spot suspicious objects. They have a role in to play in a number of places like airport or in event security. That was very much the reason for the success of Olympics in London. Everyone was imparted the level of training and merging with technology, the security at Olympics was of a highest level.
What are the proactive initiatives that the UK government takes to ensure that the private security sector grows in an organised way and becomes an ancillary law enforcement resource?
We do see an important role for private sector in this area. We are very clear that if you look at the various events that take place, the police on their own just wouldn’t be able to do that. Yes, there are a number of steps that are being taken on the issue. Police service itself is acceptable to the idea and is responding and looking at ways in which they can work together with the private sector. There are several such examples where private sector is already delivering. And our white paper also discussed this aspect where more such responsibilities can be shared with the private sector. We are analysing all this closely to decide where more we can share this.
Is your delegation looking for association with government and state governments or are they looking for associations with private companies as well?
I think we are looking at both of those things. Because for some there may be an opportunity to forge those links with government directly but there is an important facet of it because you can’t just take a product of the shelf and hope to use it in different conditions. So there will be an opportunity for companies to form linkages where in the product can be innovated for local utilizations which is what the companies will be looking at. So there will be some looking at direct opportunities while some will be looking at strategic partnership. The idea is also to listen and get that feedback on how we can make this relationship more deliverable and transferable. And those issues about after care and training. Effectively it isn’t just about this visit but we look at it as a start of an ongoing process so that we can better tailor the security sector. We have companies that can exploit the huge opportunities that are available here. There are huge opportunities here and we have the ability to provide assistance in various fields like aviation security, city surveillance and others. This isn’t a short term issue. We would like an on going dialogue at different level.
At over 15,000 companies, the UK security industry has a strong international reputation, grown over decades as the UK has faced significant and varying terrorist threats, many of which are common to the issues India also faces today. We are here to listen, to learn and to forge the partnerships with Indian colleagues that will help to support India’s security needs now and in the future. Our trade mission follows the Home Secretary, Theresa May’s, visit in November 2012 which emphasized the importance that we attach to our relationship with India.