On the 7th of December 2010 the Home Affairs Select Committee questioned Home Office civil servants, primarily Graham Widdecombe of the Policing Directorate, about the award of an “authorisation” to handle TASER weapons to a company called Tactical Safety Responses Limited.
In the UK TASERs are treated as prohibited weapons under Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968 and only those authorised are allowed to possess them. Mr Widdecombe told the select committee that his section in the Home Office was responsible for issuing such authorisations.
The only company previously authorised to handle TASER weapons in the UK, Pro-Tect Ltd, had its authorisation withdrawn after one of its principals’ supplied shotgun TASER XREP weapons to Northumbria Police in contravention of the terms of the authorisation.
The committee was told that the staff from the struck off company Pro-Tect were involved with the newly authorised organisation Tactical Safety Responses but assured by Mr Widdecombe that the individuals involved in both companies were not at director or senior management level.
After watching the select committee session I visited the Companies House website and for £2 purchased the current appointments list for both companies. This shows that a Mr Glenn Mark Cameron, one of the directors of Tactical Safety Responses Limited, is also the Company Secretary for Pro-Tect Ltd.
This state of affairs sits awkwardly alongside Home Office civil servant Mr Widdecombe’s statement to the select committee that: “We did seek assurances the principals of Pro-Tect wouldn’t be involved in any way in the setting up of the new company”. He may have sought that assurance, but for the cost of £2 he could have discovered it could not be truthfully be given.
None of the company directors have included their home addresses on their submissions to Companies House so I think it is reasonable to re-publish the reports via the following links: Pro-Tect Ltd, Tactical Safety Responses Limited.
Mr Cameron is on Twitter and his LinkedIn profile shows he is not a TASER expert but someone who has worked in IT. Mr Widdecombe gave MPs the impression that the only individuals working for the new company who were involved in the old one were TASER experts, perhaps such as ex. police officers with expertise in use of force.
Companies House records also show that Tactical Safety Response Limited was called “TASER INTERNATIONAL (UK)” until the 12th of October 2010, and the company was incorporated on the 28th of September 2010.
Until the 5th of November 2008 Pro-Tect Systems Limited was registered at Unit 2C Riley Close, Royal Oak Industrial Estate, Daventry; this is the address that Tactical Safety Response Limited currently has as its registered office. There is a connection in the other direction too as until 8th of October 2010 Tactical Safety Response Limited’s registered office was at 3 Cottesbrooke Park, Daventry; this is the same as the address given for the two current directors of Pro-Tect Systems Limited. ie. While there are no current geographical links between the two companies; looking at their histories shows up close connections.
Shortly after the name of the newly authorised company was announced to the committee I noted that the new company’s website was essentially identical to the old company’s website. Even the domain name was the same and only thing that had changed on the website itself was the footer containing the company name. The below image shows the two websites side-by side:
Prior to Mr Huppert’s asking a question on the similarity between the two companies I tweeted:
The website for Tactical Safety Responses Ltd is identicial and on the same domain as Pro-Tect systems’ website was http://www.taser.co.uk/
I followed this up with:
.@JulianHuppert Compare http://web.archive.org/web/20080607101707/http://www.taser.co.uk/ vs http://www.taser.co.uk A New Company!?
My view is that the if the Home Office had only wanted to see procedures at Pro-Tect tightened up then that is what they ought to have required; they should not have participated in this attempted charade which has required a “new” company to be formed in-order to enable the issuing of a new “authorisation”.
I think MPs at the Home Affairs Select Committee were misled by Graham Widdecombe on the manner in which the two companies were connected. It is clear it is not simply a case of expert staff transferring from one company to the other. I don’t know if Mr Widdecombe is incompetent, if he was attempting to cover up a mistake, or if there is another explanation.
I hope and expect MPs will ask the Home Secretary when they have her before them next Tuesday to explain why her civil servants participated in this bizarre escapade involving removing a TASER authorisation from one company only to award one again to a newly formed closely linked company.
Following the committee session I made a freedom of information request to the Home Office in public via WhatDoTheyKnow.com saying:
I would like to request a copy of the authorisation under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 issued to Tactical Safety Responses Limited in December 2010. I would also like to request copies of all correspondence between the Home Office and that company leading up to the award of that authorisation.
Any response will be automatically made available online. The authorisation document ought contain details of the conditions imposed on the company, and may well define exactly what kinds of weapons they are permitted to trade in.
Transcripts of Relevant Sections of Questioning from the Select Committee
Keith Vaz MP
Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee: “What is the name of the new company?”.
Home Office Officials: “TSR, Tactical Safety Responses Limited”.
Keith Vaz: “And what kind of research have you done into this company? In view of the controversy which has occurred has anyone looked at this company? How many former police officers are employed, do they have the technical capacity to deal with this issue?”
Graham Widdecombe: “Yes indeed. My section has been in-touch with the Northampton Police which is where this company is based, we’ve been in touch with the company itsself, we’ve asked for assurances from them as to what new procedures will be put in place and sought evidence from them as to a continuing business model”.
Keith Vaz: “How long has the company been in existence?”
Graham Widdecombe: “This is a newly formed company”.
Keith Vaz: “The concern that I have is an awful lot seems to revolve around Northamptonshire”
Keith Vaz: “Are any of the former employees of Pro-Tect involved in this new company?”
Graham Widdecombe: “They are yes and that’s something we looked at very carefully to establish if, as I say, if this was a new company or not and to get assurances from them their new arrangements were such as to avoid sort of similar situations.”
Keith Vaz: “Let me just take this slowly. The Home Office withdraws authorisation from a company called Pro-Tect. They then give authorisation to a new company based in the same area which is in-effect using references from the same police authority which did the enquiry into the company which is no-longer authorised, with some of the same employees from the previous company that has been struck off authorisation?”.
Graham Widdecombe: “Yes”.
Keith Vaz: “Yes! And you think that’s satisfactory?”.
Graham Widdecombe: “It’s something we had to look into and its not something we do lightly. The fact that Northampton is the same police service is just one of those areas – that’s where they were based. We did seek assurances the principals of Pro-Tect wouldn’t be involved in any way in the setting up of the new company and that there were procedures in place and lessons had been learnt. As I say we are adding additional conditions to their Section 5 authority to ensure one person acting alone cannot do something similar”.
Julian Huppert MP
Julian Huppert MP: “How comfortable are you that Tactical Safety Responses are in reality a completely different company from Pro-Tect and they’re not using the same staff, the same approach, the same problems we had with Pro-Tect?”
Graham Widdecombe “That is something we did go back to them on…”
Julian Huppert MP: “There appears to be a remarkable similarity between the two companies; to what extent did we have one monopoly supplier which had its licence withdrawn for breaking the rules and we’re just going to allow it to have effectively another name, and a very similar approach.”
Graham Widdecombe: “We were very anxious to avoid that, otherwise we wouldn’t have withdrawn the authority from Pro-Tect… We will certainly be watching them very closely to be sure that this is not just Pro-Tect under another name. ”
Bridget Phillipson MP
Bridget Phillipson MP: “When you say there is similarity in the employes between this company and the successor company are you talking about at the director level, senior management level, or people that were employed within the previous company”.
Graham Widdecombe: “No. These were employees, and they were experts in the field of what they were doing and they weren’t directors as such.”