Defence deal 'compromised security'

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The Independent Online
A cut-price contract for the construction of a defence research base at Farnborough was attacked by Labour yesterday for breakdowns in security.

The party's defence spokesman, John Spellar, who is sponsored by the AEEU, said incidents had included the arrest of 19 illegal immigrants found working on the site, and the detection of workers making improper benefit claims.

Two Russians and 15 Poles were among the illegal immigrants detained following a tip-off. "People are able to wander freely around a highly sensitive site without being checked in any way. It is quite extraordinary at a time of increased terrorist tension," said Mr Spellar.

But a spokesman for the main contractor, Shepherd Construction, said a distinction had to be drawn between the security procedures for a construction site, and the stricter procedures that applied when the site was gradually handed over to the Defence Research Agency.

"The layman sees this site as a flagship for military and aviation research, but that is not the case. It only becomes high-security once it is handed over to the client. When that happens, I assure you, the security is very impressive indeed."

The spokesman said that, as usual, sub-contractors had been taken on and agencies had been used for the recruitment of labour. He added that it was the responsibility of the agencies to check workers' credentials. Pressed to say whether any action had been taken against the agency, he said: "We have decided not to take any further operatives from them."