In the grand scheme of things

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image


If you’re anything like me, the thought of living in a world without the Internet is hard to imagine. It has become the dominant factor in how we communicate and exchange information, and for some the thought of being without it is too much to bear. I recently read Vodafone’s Digital Behaviours study, which found that more than a third of Britons said they did not think they could make it through a full day without it, with the most common excuses being that it is part of modern life, and needing a way to contact friends.

This connection is evolving beyond mobile phones, tablets and computers and has developed into the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s a term that is widely misunderstood, but in a nutshell it describes a system where items in the physical world, and sensors within or attached to these items, are connected to the Internet via wireless and wired connections.

Put simply, it connects everything and everyone – from smart phones to coffee makers, washing machines, energy meters, headphones, refrigerators, lights, cars, wearable devices and almost anything else. The scope of the IoT is only limited by our imaginations and as each week goes past, new and exciting Internet connected devices are being developed and introduced to an ever more tech-savvy society.

Proponents of the IoT see it enabling a brave new world, free from the more mundane aspects of life. Meanwhile, those of a more cautious disposition envisage a Big Brother situation where governments, corporations or those with malicious intent can access information about individuals and their activities. One thing is for sure – it is the gateway to artificial intelligence, where interconnected machines that have human-like qualities to learn and rationalise will be developed and introduced.

Estimates about the amount of connected devices set to be in use over the next few years vary enormously. According to Intel, the IoT is predicted to grow from two billion objects in 2006 to 200 billion by 2020, when there will be around 26 smart objects for every human being on Earth. IBM claims that every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – according to the US definition that’s one followed by 18 zeros – and if I put that huge number into perspective, it equates to filling up 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads every day!!

If we think what we produce today represents big data, we need to think again. IDC’s analysts predict that by 2020 these devices will collectively consume about 44 zettabytes of data – that’s 50 times more than in 2012 (a zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros!). Furthermore, by 2020 about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.

It is clear that IoT based devices will collect a lot of personal data and, in my view, not enough is being done to build security and privacy into them. Of course, those who have committed no wrongdoing should have nothing to fear from the potential surveillance of that data by security services and police forces alike. Yet increased amounts of data can also make people, homes and businesses more attractive to cyber criminals and although hackers aren’t paying the IoT too much attention at the moment, as soon as there’s a financial incentive to doing so, I’m certain they will.

The vast majority of the public simply have no idea what type of information is being held about them and, just as importantly, where it is. Although the convenience of the Cloud appeals to many, there are still those who simply don’t understand that this means their information is not in some untouchable place in the sky, it is stored, processed and moved in terrestrial data centres, and owners and operators of these facilities have to be increasingly vigilant – not just of cyber crime, but physical attack too.

Traditional security measures have a part to play in protecting a data storage site (whether a big data centre or a company’s own smaller file servers) and these should form part of a multi-layered approach to safeguarding all stored data. Externally, perimeter fences, barriers, retracting posts at vehicle access points, CCTV cameras and manned guards can all deter a physical security breach.

Internally, CCTV, alarms, integrated access control systems and appropriately rated security doors and alarms all form part of the defence. Biometric controls, such as fingerprint and iris recognition, are beginning to replace swipe cards and can be used to monitor and record movement in a facility. Keeping the number of potential entry points to a minimum is also good practice, as is ensuring that staff are aware of their security responsibilities, and limiting access to certain areas. Software is also now available that provides local or remote control of racks and cabinets, with full event recording and a rolling 24 hour audit trail.

The IoT is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us in ways that would have previously seemed the stuff of science fiction. Although we are still some way off seeing the full potential of these intelligent machines, consumers need to wake up to the security and privacy implications of having billions of devices collecting their data at all times, and put in appropriate measures to protect themselves.

To make it clear, I am in favour of security services having access to data to protect us from terrorist attacks but we need to build a data world where we are protected from criminals stealing that data.



The ‘Invisible’ impact of serving your country

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

The security industry has attracted recruits from the armed forces for many years, as it is clearly a sector where many of the skills that leavers have learned whilst in service can be put to good use in “Civvy Street”. Corps Security, as most will know, was established to provide employment for servicemen returning from the Crimean War. What many may be surprised to learn, however, is that even today 55% of our colleagues have served their country in one arm of the military or another. Whilst this level of ex-service personnel is higher than most, we estimate that probably around 33% of our industry has a service background.

Currently in the UK there are more than 2,000 military charities – all of whom are doing a fantastic job providing support for those who have risked life and limb for their country. The work that these charities do for those veterans with clearly visible signs of their sacrifice is amazing but, unfortunately, many veterans carry invisible scars which impact psychologically and emotionally.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in society over the last 20 years has been its attitude and approach to mental health. I’m pleased to say that many of the stereotypes surrounding this subject have been addressed in a positive way, but on a wider basis, do we really have a great deal more sympathy and understanding about the problems faced by those in a vulnerable psychological state as a result of their time in service?

Most of us have heard of the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Caused by very stressful and/or frightening events, it has become synonymous with those who have experienced the trauma of military combat, and ex-service personnel who fought in Northern Ireland, the South Atlantic, Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from it in significant numbers. The symptoms of PTSD vary widely but can include nightmares and flashbacks, as well as feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. While it can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event, it can also occur weeks, months or even years later.

The scale of the problem is immense and in 2014 the Ministry of Defence published figures that showed a 12 per cent increase in the rate of mental disorders as a whole, including depression and anxiety. When it came to PTSD, the figure was up an alarming 19 per cent from the year before.

As an industry with a significant number of ex-service personnel and current reservists working in it, I’m surprised that there isn’t more awareness of PTSD and other mental health issues. As so many of Corps Security’s employees have served in the armed forces, I wanted to find out more about the subject, so I recently met up with Combat Stress, the leading veterans mental health charity.

It was one of the most enlightening meetings that I’ve had and it brought into sharp focus just how much more needs to be done to increase awareness of this subject and generate much needed funds. Combat Stress currently provides free of charge support for nearly 6,000 men and women ranging in ages from 19-97. It provides a vital lifeline for these people and, just as importantly, their families, and aims to help veterans live free from the harmful effects of psychological wounds.

As I mentioned earlier, the changes in society’s attitude towards mental health issues have been immense but in reality PTSD and related problems have been around much longer. Unfortunately, for a long time anything non-physical wasn’t recognised as an illness. Those suffering from what we would today instantly recognise as symptoms of PTSD during the First and Second World Wars were simply considered to be lacking in moral fibre. The sad fact is that many people were imprisoned or even killed by firing squad for disobeying orders as result of their conditions.

In this respect Combat Stress was well ahead of its time, as it was founded in 1919 as the Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Society and opened its first ‘recuperative home’ in 1920 on Putney Hill in London. Dealing with those who had what was then known as shellshock, it was a true pioneer of a more compassionate and rehabilitation based approach.

So, back to the present day. While the vital work of Combat Stress continues to make a real difference to many lives, in my opinion the security industry needs to do far more in terms of supporting our ex-service employees. We must learn to understand and recognise the symptoms of PTSD and put mechanisms in place that can help people through it.

People with PTSD may become emotionally numb, aggressive and nervous, and when in a working environment such as manned guarding, it can be all too easy to dismiss this type of behaviour as a ‘bad attitude’, or to excuse it by saying that a person is simply going through a difficult patch. Particularly in male dominated environments, there can be a reluctance to broach the subject of emotional and mental health issues and it can be all too easy to simply avoid talking about them. However, a failure to address the issue early on can lead to longer-term problems and affect an individual’s ability to work at all.

This simply has to change and a corporate and industry wide reassessment of how mental health is dealt with is the first and most important step on the journey towards helping those with this type of illness. Therefore, I would advocate that training on this subject should be given to all management, so that they can recognise the signs, talk to the person, and take appropriate action.

As a matter of course, those returning from a ‘theatre of war’ must be fully supported. Experiencing unpleasant things at close quarters leaves scars, and those leaving the armed forces (either time-served or as a result of debilitating injury), should be given the necessary help to relieve the impact of these experiences. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the very least we should be doing.

Sizing up public sector contracts

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

As regular readers of my blogs will know, the way that central government contracts are allocated, awarded and serviced has, for a long time, been a cause of deep concern for me. The situation can be summed up quite simply – small contracts go to small organisations, while major contracts usually go to one single industry behemoth. The one thing that should have been learned from several well publicised major contract failures was that putting all the eggs in one basket is foolhardy and risks a disaster.

It’s a lesson that appeared to have been heeded when Matt Hancock, the minister for the Cabinet Office, recently announced an ambitious new target to get more SMEs working on central government contracts. The headline is that £1 in every £3 in government spend will be with small businesses by 2020. It certainly sounds like a step in the right direction, however, when scratching the surface it means that when it comes to larger ‘super’ contracts very little will change. Why is this? Because what constitutes an SME in one industry does not necessarily translate to another.

The government defines a company as an SME if it meets two out of three criteria – it has a turnover of less than £25m, it has less than 250 employees and/or it has gross assets of less than £12.5m. Within the security sector there is a significant number of businesses with well over 250 employees – and that means that for many organisations in our industry and others that are similarly labour intensive, this latest announcement could actually make a bad situation worse.

In reality a security company with less than 250 employees is likely to have a maximum turnover of around £6m, therefore, it would be unlikely to have a professional infrastructure for compliance, health and safety or human resources. These are abilities a company will need to meet the rigors of public sector contracts.

What this latest development means in reality is that security companies with 250 people or under are unlikely to get a bigger piece of the action due to their lack of professional specialist resources whilst, at the other end of the scale, the industry’s biggest players will continue to get the larger contracts. By definition, companies in the middle with, for example, 2,000 to 3,000 employees, and the specialist resources available, will miss out at both ends of the spectrum.

Inviting a greater number companies that are bigger than SMEs, but not in the same league as G4S and Serco, to handle these large contracts would increase attention to detail, transparency, competiveness and innovation. Just as importantly, being able to benchmark across a whole range of suppliers would keep prices in check. This is in stark contrast to the status quo, which offers no impetus to innovate and simply engenders a culture of complacency.

The government is well aware of this issue, as in late 2014 The Commons Public Accounts Committee said that it was too reliant on a small number of private sector contractors to provide a swathe of public services. Margaret Hodge, the Committee’s Labour chairman, warned against quasi-monopoly suppliers becoming too important to fail, and encouraged competition through, for example, splitting up contracts to encourage SMEs to bid for work.

Although this sentiment is entirely appropriate, its fails to recognise the logistical issues that must be addressed when awarding security contracts. It would be expensive and wholly impractical to invite numerous companies with less that 250 personnel to tender for contracts where 3,000 manned guards are required. On the other hand it would make perfect sense to invite applications from three organisations that could provide 1,000 trained and fully licensed people.

This is exactly the type of situation that this latest government initiative fails to recognise – and one that could lead to problems in the future. These ‘bigger than SME’ sized companies combine the ability to carry out large-scale assignments with the kind of attention to detail that smaller organisations often display. This makes them able to hit a ‘sweet spot’ by offering the size to handle demanding contracts, but still being flexible and responsive, while delivering on their promises and reducing the potential for problems.

Although it is probably through accident rather than design, I can’t help thinking that the glaring omission in this initiative this is a missed opportunity for a significant proportion of the companies in this sector. Until a more inclusive and wide-ranging procurement policy is put in place, it could well mean that history repeats itself, and perhaps it’s time to redefine what constitutes an SME in the security industry.

Will CSAS do the security industry the power of good?

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate, and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

When the Police Reform Act 2002 came into effect, many of us focused on its creation of police community support officers (PCSOs). The fact that it also introduced the ability for chief constables to confer a limited range of police powers on other individuals as part of the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) often slipped under the radar. 13 years later this legislation is starting to affect the security industry, and the pros and cons of it appear equally weighted.

To sum it up, CSAS allows people to do some of the work usually carried out by police officers, by giving ‘accredited persons’ limited but targeted powers appropriate to their roles. Accredited persons can act upon a range of issues such as littering, underage drinking and graffiti, as well as dealing with general incidents of antisocial behaviour. While they do not have the power to detain or arrest, it is an offence for an individual to refuse to provide an accredited person with their name and address, or assault and obstruct them.

In the early days of CSAS, the response by police forces to private security organisations taking on additional powers was lukewarm at best, but the last few years have seen greater use of CSAS. Despite this, the Home Office appears reluctant to provide annually updated nationwide figures – the last survey it conducted was way back in December 2010 and showed there were 26 forces participating in the scheme with 2,219 individuals accredited with specific powers. Those numbers are certainly different now.

Another of the reasons for the initial low profile of CSAS was that police services had not experienced the cuts that they are dealing with today. Having lost nearly 16,000 officers from forces in England and Wales – the equivalent of losing all the police forces in the south west of England – the police service’s lack of ability, or willingness, to attend certain incidents has come under the spotlight.

In August a news story broke concerning attempted burglaries and how Leicestershire Police admitted only sending forensic officers to homes with an even number during a three-month trial, because it wanted to find out whether it had any impact on victim satisfaction rates. Police resources were also under intense scrutiny following the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Robbery, when it was discovered that police decided not to respond to an intruder alert issued by the alarm receiving centre. These kinds of incidents have left many in the security industry concerned that they cannot rely on a police response when needed.

Much of the effectiveness of CSAS comes down to the quality of the individual and the training they are given. A chief constable may not grant accreditation unless they are satisfied that the person concerned has received adequate training from a National Police Chiefs’ Council approved provider. Furthermore, an organisation must accredit individuals as being fit and proper, and suitable to exercise the powers that are to be given to them.

Choosing the right people is of paramount importance and failing to give this subject proper consideration is a recipe for disaster. At one extreme, some security personnel could be excessively officious, while on the other, individuals could simply see their extra powers as an excuse to be more ‘heavy-handed’ in their actions. I think that some security organisations do not have the necessary selection procedures in place and this could put their employees and the public at increased risk.

One of my main concerns when it comes to security personnel operating under CSAS is what happens when things go wrong. While the onus is on security companies to ensure that the right people are deployed, it would be unreasonable to assume that the potential for things to get out of hand from time to time is non-existent. Issuing a fixed penalty to someone that is drunk and/or aggressive, and who sees an accredited person as nothing more that a ‘hobby bobby’, could easily lead to violence.

Therefore, in a dangerous situation, will security personnel get the kind of quick response from the police that they need, or will such incidents simply be downgraded? This is a question that the security industry as a collective must seek assurances on if closer cooperation between private companies and the police service under CSAS is to be mutually beneficial.

This issue is also something that a growing number of customers have to consider. Those wanting CSAS accredited persons is certainly on the rise, however, there are others who feel very uneasy about asking their security personnel to undertake the type of roles that are traditionally the domain of the police service.

The potential of CSAS to benefit both the police and security services is certainly there. It is, however, vital to ensure that high standards are maintained and that less scrupulous organisations do not exploit it purely for commercial gain, while ignoring the dangers that their employees and the public could face from poor decision making. I’d be interested to hear what you think, so post your comments below.

The figures are beginning to stack up

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, gave his budget to parliament on the 8th July, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be caught off-guard by his announcement of a £7.20 an hour National Living Wage for those aged over 25 from next year, rising to £9 by 2020. Although much of the other content was pretty predictable, this pronouncement really did catch people by surprise – something highlighted by the Labour front bench’s collective expressions as the details were given.

This welcome news will give a pay rise to over 1.4 million workers in our country and as regular readers of my blogs will know, the issues surrounding the National Minimum Wage and, more importantly, the need to move towards a Living Wage are close to my heart. Although perhaps not as excited as the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was at the time of the announcement, broadly speaking I am pleased that the security industry’s lowest paid workers will, at last, get a much deserved pay increase. It is fair to say that wage rates in the manned guarding sector have been a significant cause of concern for many years and have not helped our cause to improve the image of the security industry.

However, while the policy is a good one and should be welcomed, using the National Living Wage brand smacks of a deliberate attempt to cause confusion with the well-established Living Wage Foundation’s (LWF) Living Wage, and steal its thunder. As a point of clarification, the National Living Wage will replace the National Minimum Wage for the over 25s, although it remains in place for those who are younger. The National Minimum Wage is set by the Low Pay Commission. Meanwhile, the Living Wage Foundation will continue to offer its own Living Wage, usually different, figures.

Why are they different? The LWF Living Wage is calculated according to the cost of living, whereas the Low Pay Commission calculates the National Living Wage according to what it thinks the market can withstand. The current LWF Living Wage for London is £9.15 an hour, higher than what the government says its National Living Wage will be by 2020. Elsewhere the LWF rate is £7.85 an hour, 9% more than what has been proposed in the budget.

For what it’s worth, I would like to see more employers pay the rates outlined by the LWF Living Wage, wherever and whenever possible. Although its supporters will claim that the National Living Wage will reduce poverty and increased productivity amongst businesses, the LWF Living Wage could do so much more. I’m not alone in this view, as during 2014 the number of accredited LWF Living Wage employers more than doubled, with over 1,000 employers across the UK having now signed up.

Not surprisingly, the National Living Wage has been met with a certain degree of negativity, not just amongst Labour politicians and their supporters, most of which see it as a red herring. Stephen Nickell, a leading figure at the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the government’s fiscal watchdog, has stated that the number of people in poor households who are likely to benefit from a higher minimum wage is very small. Similarly, the CBI has called the move a ‘gamble’ that risks politicising the process and causing problems for some small businesses.

The repercussions for the security sector will be interesting. At Corps Security, we already pay above the new National Living Wage on most of our contracts, and in the broader commercial environment I think the increase will be generally accepted. This would mirror my experience when the National Minimum Wage was introduced in 1998, although it won’t all be plain sailing. There will certainly be some organisations currently paying the National Minimum Wage that will have to adapt to the new rate by cutting costs and even reducing staffing levels.

Where I expect there will be problems is within the public sector, where there is usually a refusal to adjust prices to meet legislative change. Security services providers operating within these markets will be looking for some government reassurance that they will not be detrimentally affected. It will be up to the government to ensure that public sector organisations meet the cost of their changes in policy which could not possibly be predicted when the original bidding processes took place.

Another question mark surrounds the two million under-25s who are not covered by this announcement. There has been a concern that some employers will look to take on younger people simply so they can pay the lower rate. I hope that employers will take our approach to this, which is that whatever a person’s age, gender, religion or race, the rate for the job is the same. I’m sure that the reality will, however, be different.

Like any new legislation, this initiative will take some getting used to but I am happy that those in positions of power are, at last, taking the issue seriously. It’s just a shame that the name has been used so cynically, and I hope the Living Wage Foundation is able to continue its fantastic work and that we can all move towards a rate of pay that is commensurate with the overall cost of living.

Sad News

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below. Image The news that a fellow security guard has died after being attacked outside a court in central London was met with great sadness at our offices. Lorraine Barwell, a prisoner custody officer with Serco, was assaulted on Monday as she escorted a prisoner between Blackfriars Crown Court and a prison van.  It is understood that she and other members of her team were preparing to escort the prisoner to a van parked inside the court’s courtyard when she was assaulted.

According to BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, Ms Barwell is believed to be the first prisoner custody officer to have died in the line of duty. It is sadly true that the major contribution that our industry colleagues make to keeping people and property safe is not properly recognised.  The commitment of private security officers to the job often puts them at the risk of threats and physical assault during the course of their work and, today, our thoughts and condolences are very much with the family, friends and colleagues of Ms. Barwell.

(UPDATED 03/07/15 20:10)

In response to my post above, I received the following from Gary Broad, Major Accounts Director at Corps Security, and I would like to include it in full here.

This week’s terrible news that a serving security officer has died in the line of duty has shocked us all; providing a timely reminder of the vulnerability of each and every person involved within the wider contract-security family.

Unfortunately, it is only following such an extremely sad incident that we feel able to extend the genuine concern that each of us feels for our own employees. To those who also serve – but in uniforms of a different hue, and behind a badge of different design.    

As an industry, we must be united in our condemnation of such despicable behaviour from those who we seek to protect the honest and decent citizens of this country from; especially as we move through such uncertain times, when the likelihood of further violent actions present challenges to us all.

Lorraine Barwell, a Prisoner Escort and Custody Services Officer employed by Serco, was assaulted on Monday as she and her colleagues accompanied a prisoner between Blackfriars Crown Court and a secure vehicle. It is understood that she and other members of her team were providing safe passage for the prisoner when she was assaulted.

According to BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, Ms Barwell is believed to be the first prisoner Custody Officer to have died in the line of duty.

For those of us who eat, sleep and breathe security on a day-to-day basis, the sad news of such a terrible loss can sometimes, unfortunately be tinged with a feeling of inevitability; knowing that despite all of our best efforts to mitigate such terrible occurrences and protect our colleagues to the full, the potential for violent attack always lurks just under the surface for many, if not most, of our front-line personnel.

How little do those that we strive to protect on a daily basis understand about the risks our colleagues take on their behalf? And how little do they appreciate how much “simply being of service” means to the vast majority of contract-security personnel (be they involved in guarding, cash-collection, prisoner escort or any other protective service?)

I’m sure that others within our industry share the uncomfortable feeling that I get when hearing our colleagues referred to in negative terms, by people who have neither the aptitude, ability, nor courage to undertake the tasks that our staff complete each and every day – and who probably wouldn’t get out of bed for a salary double that available to our people. 

As Peter says above, it is a sad truism that the huge contribution made by our industry colleagues to keeping people and property safe is not recognised as it should be. With the increased potential for terrorist activity and civil unrest rising daily, it is about time that the hardworking, conscientious and yes – brave – security personnel of the UK are recognised for the jobs that they do so well, often at the vanguard of our country’s fight against anti-social behaviour, crime and terrorism.  

The commitment of security personnel (in all sectors) to their job often puts them at the risk of threats and physical assault during the course of their work and, today, our thoughts and condolences are very much with the family, friends and colleagues of Ms. Barwell, a brave and obviously dedicated representative of all things that are right, an Officer who was described as being “a consummate professional, really good at her job and very much respected” by her Manager.

Is the rise of the SNP the thin end of the wedge?

I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.Image

As far as general elections go, this one had more than its fair share of drama and one month on, and with the Queen’s Speech delivered, we are finally starting to get an idea of the direction of UK policy.

In many respects the result was a tale of two nations. While most of us expected a hung parliament of one kind or another, when the BBC’s exit poll stated that the Conservatives would win an outright majority, it was hard to believe. Let’s just say that very few people, thought Paddy Ashdown would actually have to eat his hat! – although I suspected that there may be a surprise outright win for the Conservatives as, against expectations, the UKIP vote seemed to be coming from the supporters of other parties.

While the success of the Tories was down to English voters, north of the border a seismic shift was created with the Scottish National Party (SNP) winning 56 of the country’s 59 seats. Although this result was greeted with a certain amount of incredulity by most commentators, I was less surprised, given the result of the Scottish independence referendum where 44.7% of the voters supported the Nationalist message. What transpired was that the SNP achieved 50% of the vote in Scotland in the General election and was placed in the driving seat when it comes to negotiating greater devolution. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, recently stated that his party wants to negotiate the transfer of even greater tax and welfare powers to Scotland.

The Scotland Bill will make Holyrood responsible for raising about 40 per cent of the country’s taxes, with powers to set the thresholds and rates of income tax included in the legislation. SNP MPs at Westminster will no doubt be pushing to make the Scottish government responsible for raising all the money it spends. No surprises there then, but we have to be careful that any moves in that direction do not harm businesses that conduct their operations in both countries. For instance, if income tax levels are different and/or changes to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) are made independently, then confusion could reign. We must be careful not to create a situation where Scotland sets the agenda for the rest of the UK and this surely strengthens the case for English votes for English laws (EVEL).

Moving away from this subject, the issue of zero hours contracts was a hot topic leading up to the election and I’m glad to see positive steps being made regarding this subject. The government acted in advance of the Queen’s Speech to outlaw the use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts and as part of the Enterprise Bill it indicated that there would be a further crackdown on the abuse of such contracts. Details are pretty scarce but the government has entered into a period of consultation on the issue and we can expect to hear more soon.

As I’ve outlined in previous blogs, although they are certainly being abused in some cases, when used correctly zero hours contracts are a force for good and offer flexible employment opportunities. Therefore, I think that any legislation must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and hinder the employment of those who are happy to work under this type of contract.

It’s also good to hear that a harder line will be taken against those failing to pay the NMW. A ‘naming and shaming’ process has already begun and the government has so far publicly named 201 employers who have failed to pay their workers the NMW, with total arrears of over £635,000 and total penalties of over £248,000. Companies could now face financial penalties of up to £20,000 if they don’t pay the NMW and shaming could also result in serious reputational consequences.

I’m pleased that this type of decisive action is being taken, as in my opinion we should all be working towards paying the Living Wage in the security industry as a minimum in order to benefit from increased staff motivation and retention rates, reduced absenteeism and recruitment costs. Hopefully, we’ll see greater moves in this direction going forward.

As a security industry professional, another bill that caught my attention was the Investigatory Powers Bill – colloquially referred to as the Snooper’s Charter. This was put on the backburner during the previous coalition government but the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has resurrected it, and as well as enabling the tracking of Internet and social media use, it will also strengthen the security services’ warranted powers for the bulk interception of the content of communications. Although this has not proved popular with civil liberties groups, those with nothing to worry about should not be concerned about this legislation, as we need to do everything possible to prevent terrorist attacks.

I’m generally positive about the moves outlined in the Queen’s Speech and feel that the issues I have outlined will be addressed thoroughly and fairly through the proposed legislation. However, my positivity is tempered by the growing threat of increased devolution and I fear that we haven’t heard the last about Scottish independence.