§ Mrs. Ann Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what experience the company338W Group 4 had demonstrated in running a secure holding centre or prisons prior to being offered the contract for Harmondsworth holding centre;
(2) what procedure is followed to vet the staff of private security firms who work at Harmondsworth holding centre; and how these (a) were applied to Securicor employees and (b) will be applied to Group 4 employees;
(3) what measures will be taken to ensure that a smooth changeover of management will be secured at Harmondsworth holding centre when Securicor hand over the running to Group 4;
(4) what were his reasons for deciding (a) to terminate the contract between the Home Office and Securicor for the management and staffing of Harmondsworth holding centre and (b) to award the contract to Group 4;
(5) how many of those held at Harmondsworth holding centre have escaped in the time that it has been under the management of Securicor.
§ Mr. Renton
The contract for the provision of Group 4 staff at the Harmondsworth, Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester immigration detention units was awarded to the company following receipt of competitive tenders. The decision took account of a number of factors, including value for money and a detailed evaluation of the company's ability to provide the high quality of service specified.
The nature of the contract is unique in the United Kingdom and only Securicor Ltd. has so far had direct experience in this area. But Group 4 is a company of high standing. The tendering exercise enabled it to demonstrate satisfactorily its ability to provide a reliable service. Both Securicor Ltd. and Group 4 Total Security Ltd are members of the British Security Industry Association which lays down rigorous recruitment and vetting standards. Both companies fully meet those standards, including the vetting of candidates over a period extending back 20 years.
A series of meetings has been arranged between immigration service officials and senior managers within both Securicor and Group 4 to ensure a smooth transition. These discussions and detailed arrangements are progressing well. Responsibility for managing the detention units will not alter as a result of the change in contractor; that will remain firmly with the Home Office.
In 1987, 78 persons absconded from immigration service detention units; in 1988 up to 31 October the figure is 75. Figures for earlier years are not readily available. These details were not included in the factors taken into account when awarding the contract of Group 4.