CBI to press Blunkett to set up special police force

Digby Jones plans to meet the Home Secretary to ask for help to combat 'threats to democratic capitalism', writes Clayton Hirst
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The Independent Online

Digby Jones, the director- general of the CBI, is to press the Government to set up a dedicated police force to tackle the rise in security threats against business.

Digby Jones, the director- general of the CBI, is to press the Government to set up a dedicated police force to tackle the rise in security threats against business.

Mr Jones believes that British companies need more help from the Government and the police to combat what he said are "threats to democratic capitalism" - such as terrorist attacks, animal rights extrem-ism, espionage and computer hacking.

"Do I intend to put this high on the lobby agenda of the CBI? Yes, I do. And I intend to sit down with David Blunkett [the Home Secretary] and raise the issue, because I know he will listen," he said.

Mr Jones said the CBI would, in the coming months, discuss the idea with its members and the police before deciding on the size and shape of the force he will call for. Mr Jones, who has campaigned against new regulations that place a cost burden on businesses, said that many of his members were prepared to fund the new force.

"If this turns out to be an additional expense on business then it is an expense that business should bear. If that costs a few bob and saves a life, then it is money well spent," he said.

The news coincides with a Mori survey commissioned by the CBI and the security technology company QinetiQ looking at business security. The survey, released today, shows that 73 per cent of companies believe that security planning would be enhanced by a dedicated police resource, and half of the businesses surveyed said they would be willing to pay for it.

The report also reveals that the typical company spent about £1m on security last year, and around 80 per cent of businesses surveyed said that they spent more money on security than they did five years ago.

The issue of business security will be put at the top of the agenda at the CBI annual conference in Birmingham, which starts tomorrow. Eliza Manningham-Buller, the director-general of MI5, will address delegates on business security. MI5 now provides security advice on its website for business on subjects such as terrorism, bomb threats and even ways of dealing with chemical, biological and nuclear contamination.

However, the CBI believes the Government should do more to help business assess security threats and take precautions against them. "The thousands of CBI members feel that they need more information and need to be better connected," said Mr Jones. "Business needs to have more confidence that it is getting its contingency planning right. This has to be done in a way to get more information [to businesses] without alarming people."

There are two main government agencies that provide business information on security planning and potential threats. The National Critical Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NCISCC) works for industries involved in essential utilities such as water and power. Meanwhile, CESG, which is part of the Cheltenham-based intelligence-gathering centre GCHQ, provides specific security information to companies, sometimes on a paid basis.

Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, chairman of QinetiQ, said: "There is a clear need for a coalition of agencies to provide clear, commonsense guidelines on security best practice for large and smaller businesses." She singled out the NCISCC, saying that its remit could be extended beyond infrastructure companies.