Cobra committee discusses Olympics


Security, transport and the threat of strikes were on the agenda for a top-level pre-Olympics meeting of the Government's Cobra contingencies committee, chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron this morning.

Senior ministers, Olympic organisers and security chiefs are expected to attend the meetings in the Cabinet Office on most mornings of the Games period to keep a close eye on potential problems and ensure a swift response to anything which might disrupt the event.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the gathering that plans to ensure a safe and secure Olympics were "robust", despite the failure of private security firm G4S to provide the promised numbers of guards. And the meeting heard that pools of people were available to stand in for striking border guards at Heathrow and other airports if the industrial action planned for Thursday goes ahead.

Also present at today's meeting - described by 10 Downing Street as a "stock-taking" session - were Transport Secretary Justine Greening, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, London Mayor Boris Johnson, Olympic organisers Locog and senior representatives of the police and military.

A member of the national security agencies MI5 or MI6 is also expected to be present for the daily meetings throughout the Olympics.

"This is an opportunity for the relevant ministers to take stock every morning to make sure we are dealing with any issues as they arise and ensure that we are effectively co-ordinating," said Mr Cameron's official spokesman.

On security, the spokesman said: "Our current assessment is that we have robust plans in place. We will do everything we need to do to ensure we have a safe and secure Olympics.

"G4S are continuing to train staff and those staff are turning up at the Olympic venues to secure them. One of the things we have been monitoring is the number of G4S staff at the various venues.

"We are confident that we have the manpower in place to secure the Games."

Following reports in the Sun that a crime ring in Pakistan was offering false passports, visas and access to the Olympic venues, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "My understanding is that we are confident that we have the checks in place and the arrangements in place to deal with these issues.

"The delegation lists for the Olympic Games are very tightly controlled and when it comes to Pakistan we have had highly-trained staff based in Pakistan dealing with the authorities there to deal with this."

Mr Maude and Mrs May told the meeting about preparations for the 24-hour walkout planned for Thursday by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) in a row over jobs and pay, which is expected to involve staff at the Home Office, including UK Border Agency workers.

Mr Cameron's spokesman said the option of sacking strikers was not discussed at today's meeting, a day after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that ministers had been asking about the possibility.

"We have said that we don't see any justification for this strike, but our focus is entirely on ensuring that we have the arrangements in place that we need at Heathrow and other airports," said the spokesman.

"The discussion was on the contingency plans and ensuring that we have relevant number of people free."

The spokesman said that only around 10% of PCS members voted in favour of the strike action and it was unclear how many workers would stay away on the day. Management are now seeking to find out how many staff are planning to turn up to work.

There are pools of people available, including Whitehall civil servants, who have done the necessary training to step in and fill gaps if needed, said the spokesman.

And he added: "The PCS have been saying this strike is nothing to do with the Olympics. Well, the strike is planned for later this week, and it's difficult for others not to see a connection there."

Ms Greening spoke to today's meeting about the transport situation in London, which Mr Cameron's spokesman acknowledged would be difficult.

The network of Olympic lanes stretching over 30 miles of the capital's roads will become fully operational from Wednesday. Painting of the lanes was completed over the weekend and some have already been put in use, notably on the M4 from Heathrow into central London.

But the meeting heard the lanes will be used "flexibly" to speed athletes and members of the Olympic family to events through rush-hour traffic, while being lifted during quiet periods.

"The reality is that there is going to be disruption," said the Prime Minister's spokesman.

"We have huge numbers of people coming to London to enjoy the Olympic Games and that will put pressure on the transport system.

"We have been keen to stress that point, so that people who don't have to come into London don't come into London."


On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style

ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week