Government clarifies security clearance rules

The government has clarified the policy on security vetting for staff hired to its sensitive posts, in an update that IT contractors hope will help curb abuses of the system.

Responding to a petition on the No10 website, officials said prospective job candidates should not have to hold a valid security clearance before applying.

Yet the "problem" of security clearances being required of contract candidates in advance persists, the officials said, despite Cabinet Office guidance stating that they shouldn't be.

They added that recruiters who ignore the guidance, and specify candidates apply with clearance or can't apply at all, risk having their adverts sent to the office for scrutiny.

Less positively for contractors, the government rejected the call of nearly 1,000 petition signatories to allow themselves to 'self-security clear' to the required level.

Published yesterday, the government's full response to the petition, posted by IT contractor Glen Andrews in June of this year, states:

The Government's overall policy intention is to ensure that national security vetting is applied proportionately, effectively and rigorously. It is therefore applied on a case by case basis to specific posts.

National security clearances also need to be actively managed beyond the application of the initial checks themselves and ongoing personnel security management is very important to maintain any security clearance. Providing ongoing personnel security management to individuals outside Government service is neither practicable nor affordable. We are therefore unable to speculatively vet individuals in advance of them applying for government jobs or contract work. Also, vetting involves a degree of intrusion into an individual's private life so must only be applied when absolutely necessary, so for legal and policy reasons, it is not available in the way suggested in this petition.

Employers are advised that they should not, generally, require prospective job candidates to hold a clearance prior to applying. This policy is reflected in a statement of the vetting policy.

However, the Government continues to receive notification that pre-existing security clearances are being required in order to bid or apply for some sub-contract work with government contractors. Such cases are brought to our attention by individual contractors, who feel excluded from the procurement process by this practice, and via MPs. In order to address this issue, the Government has taken steps to increase the awareness and implementation of its guidance. We are also working closely with the Professional Contractors Group (PCG), the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCO) in order to promote greater cross sector awareness.

As part of the ongoing efforts to raise greater awareness of the guidance an email address has been established that allows individuals to send examples of adverts that state that an existing security clearance is required in order to apply for a position or bid for a contract to: vettinggroup@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk

Whilst it will not be possible to follow up these instances in every case directly, the Government will draw on them to inform our thinking and engagement with the recruitment industry and assist with monitoring this problem.