Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Gurkha International Group of Companies

  1.  We are forwarding our comments on the Green Paper by email following your recent telephone conversation with Major A D O (David) Bredin of our Company.

  2.  Our Company was founded in 1994 by retired British and Nepalese members of the British Army's Brigade of Gurkkas to find employment for ex-British Army Gurkha Officers and Soldiers with reputable employers worldwide. Our web site is at We have offices as follows:

    (a)  England—Gurkha International Manpower Services Ltd, a company registered in England and Wales, with offices in Newport, Staffs.

    (b)  Hong Kong—Gurkha International Manpower Services Ltd, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, and Gurkha International (Hong Kong) Ltd, a company registered in Hong Kong.

    (c)  Kathmandu, Nepal—British Gurkha Overseas Services (Private) Ltd, a company registered in Nepal.

  3.  Our Company's operations are:

    (a)  Provision of trained Nepalese Security Officers and Ratings for international cruise company ships, including those with British Flags or British owners (currently including Princess P&O, Cunard Seabourn, Fred Olsen Lines, Sun Cruises, Hebridean Island Cruises) and major foreign flagged or owned companies (Star Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises, and others).

    (b)  Provision of Nepalese crew in other departments of cruise ships and other ships, for instance laundry staff on Her Majesty's fighting ships.

    (c)  Rental security services providing Nepalese staff (unarmed guards and security consultancy) in Hong Kong.

    (d)  Security advice and training, security and crime prevention services, and logistical support using Nepalese staff worldwide.

    (e)  Provision of construction and technical staff on rental or placement in Hong Kong and worldwide.

    (f)  Employment agency services for Nepalese men and women in Hong Kong and worldwide.

  4.  Apart from the laundry service we provide the Royal Navy through Worldwide Laundry Services, a Serco Denholm joint venture, all our contracts so far have been with private companies and individuals, and except in the one or two rare occasions where our staff have been in dangerous and isolated locations (such as in Africa) where weapons were available for local self defence, all of our operations have been unarmed.


  5.  We believe we would fall within the scope of the Green Paper's definition of Private Security Companies, and, as such, would be subject to whatever regime was introduced.


  6.  We agree with the assessment in the Green Paper (Paragraph 31) that there is a growing demand for security services worldwide. Particularly since the events of 11 September 2001, in our major area of business, shipping, there has been a marked increase in government regulatory activity in the security area and in the security provisions of private companies. This will continue as the threat will remain for the foreseeable future, and as the attention of governments such as ours and that of the US turns to terrorist use of cargo shipping, particularly container shipping, and to illegal immigration using maritime means.

  7.  We believe that continued international intervention in regions of instability, whether involving the UN or national combinations, coupled with the continued decline in the size of regular forces such as those of the UK, will mean the "privatisation of peace" to a growing degree. This will increase the requirement for both security staff and support services, some armed, some unarmed, in inhospitable and dangerous regions of the world.


Ban on Military Activity

  8.  We consider that this would be undesirable as:

    (a)  The industry is already international; an outright ban would force it offshore, and make any current problems unregulatable.

    (b)  Foreign competition would fill any gap thus created; such competition is likely to be unregulated and less concerned with issues of ethics and standards than British Companies.

    (c)  The industry is a complex web of interests and activities; our own operations cover many spheres; a ban might endanger a large number of activities which are in no way problematic for the sake of prevention of a small number of abuses.

    (d)  The industry provides legitimate employment for a large number of British servicemen on retirement. In our case, we provide employment for over 680 mostly ex-British Gurkha soldiers, for whom there is little alternative employment other than security anywhere. Since 1994, we have found employment for over 3,000 Gurkhas. A ban would endanger their livelihoods.

Ban on Recruitment

  9.  We do not recruit in the United Kingdom, its dependencies or colonies, at present. However, we may wish to do so one day. We believe that this would be similar to a partial ban on activity, and can see no point in banning recruitment if activity itself was not banned.

Government Regulation

  10.  We believe that Government regulation would be beneficial to the industry as it would:

    (a)  Place knowledge of security activities with the Government, and to some degree in the public domain. Current lack of such knowledge leads to emotive but ill-informed debate.

    (b)  Establish a register of companies recognised by the Government as abiding by specified rules of conduct and ethical considerations. We believe that for those companies there would be distinct marketing advantages to such a system.

    (c)  Enforce ethical and politically acceptable rules of conduct upon the industry. This can only be to its long-term good.

    (d)  Increase operational standards throughout the industry.

  11.  Our opinions of the options offered in Paragraphs 73 to 76 of the Green Paper are:

    (a)  Licensing Individual Contracts. We believe this would be too cumbersome to achieve, and involve civil servants in assessments of conditions and operations in areas of which they had no knowledge. This would be lengthy, costly, and inevitably lead to lack of competitiveness against foreign firms. It might also lead to objections by foreign governments if they were to be parties to any contract. In addition, the Government would find itself deluged with applications for licenses for a large number of small and politically innocuous or uninteresting contracts if sufficiently clear demarcation between contract types was not made. We believe that such demarcation would be very difficult to draft.

    (b)  Registration and notification. We believe this would be an easier regime to operate than licensing, but that it would involve uncertainty in contractual relationships which could lead to breach of contract problems were the Government to decide to object after contracts had been signed. Similar problems with time and competitiveness would be experienced as with licensing if contract signing had to be delayed until the Government approval had been obtained. Similar problems with Government review of a large number of minor and uncontentious contracts would arise as with licensing. We believe, however, that a provision for notification of the Government of Contracts involving foreign governments would be workable and even desirable.

    (c)  General licensing. We believe this the best approach to the regulatory issue. It would allow such regulation and supervision of security companies seeking inclusion upon an approved list as would improve their standards without involvement of the Government in individual contracts. We believe that, were the issue of a general licence to be linked to acceptance and adherence to codes of ethics and practice, this would have a beneficial effect on the competitiveness of British companies. We also believe that the rules for any such licensing should be written to be sufficiently flexible to include all possible types of security operations; this will need care given the wide spread of work such as that undertaken by our Company. We believe, though, that all companies should be included in the system no matter their size; this will mean that costs will have to be low enough to prevent damaging those companies with small or irregular incomes. We believe that the industry should be involved in the drafting of any licensing scheme, and are ready ourselves to participate in this if called upon to do so.

    (d)  Self Regulation. We do not believe that this is workable because:

      (1)  There is currently no body in the industry which represents the interests of all parties.

      (2)  Small players are likely to find that they are damaged competitively by regulations brought in by any body which might come under the control of the larger players.

      (3)  Standards currently vary so greatly that getting general acceptance of regulations will be very difficult.

      (4)  The industry has a record of some very bad practices, which will not be eradicated by a body less authoritative than the Government.

      (5)  The areas of work, and to a very large degree the workforce employed, in the operations under consideration are foreign. They therefore involve the national interest abroad in issues of often a semi-political nature, and we believe that it behoves the UK Government to ensure that the standards of its companies in this field are acceptable. In particular, the possibility of exploitation of workforces abroad is a very real one. Any self-regulatory body based in the UK will not be in the position to detect, monitor and solve any problems arising in remote areas of the globe. Only HMG's Diplomatic Service is in a position to undertake these tasks. If a self-regulatory body is established, High Commissions, Embassies and Consulates abroad will find themselves doing its work for it in any case.


  12.  We welcome the Government's initiative in this area, and believe some form of Government regulation long-overdue for the raising of ethical and operational standards. We urge the adoption of General Licensing, and the consultation and participation of interested parties in the formation of any regulatory regime. We believe that any regulatory regime must be drafted sufficiently widely to include all operations of the industry without restricting their variety. We urge that the viability of the industry, particularly its smaller members, not be damaged by the imposition of procedures expensive in terms of finance of time.

  13.  We are ready to participate in any consultation for a regulatory regime or body, and to appear before the Committee if called upon to do so.

Gurkha International Group of Companies

June 2002

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