National Security Vetting and National Security Clearance

National Security Vetting

To protect the UK from hostile intelligence services, terrorists, and other kinds of pressure group, an efficient and effective security system is required. A key aspect of the UK’s security system is vetting, which ensures people who are in positions of responsibility within the UK Government and government agencies are trustworthy to handle the sensitive nature of the information to which they will be privy.

What kinds of employee requires National Security Vetting?

National Security Vetting applies to all people who, in the course of their employment, have access to sensitive government assets, including:

  • Crown Servants
  • Members of Security and Intelligence Services
  • Members of the armed forces
  • Employees at nuclear power stations
  • The police
  • Employees of certain non-government agencies which due to their operations are required to adhere to the Government’s security procedure
  • Employees and contractors providing goods and services to the Government

Candidates applying for jobs which will involve access to sensitive information or sites must complete questionnaires, providing their personal details and information which will enable appropriate checks to be carried out. The extent of these checks will vary depending on the role (in some instances, personal interviews will be conducted). The more important the role and the information to be accessed by the individual, the greater the depth of the checks.

Who is involved in the national security and vetting process?

In the UK, there is a single provider of government National Security Vetting Services – the United Kingdom Security Vetting (UKSV). This was launched on 1 January 2017 and it is tasked with establishing a single vetting database, and portable vetting. Other bodies involved in the vetting process (depending on the situation) includes:

  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)
  • Security Industry Authority (SIA)
  • Enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (ECRB)
  • Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)

Note that these agencies deal with the information in the strictest of confidence.

National Security Clearance

What is meant by national security clearance?

Certain jobs require the employee to have national security clearance to give assurance of a person’s suitability to access sensitive government information/assets.

What jobs require National Security Clearance?

Jobs throughout the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces, some government departments and agencies, and certain private sector jobs dealing with defence-related work, all require National Security clearance.

Who applies for security clearance?

Individuals or companies cannot apply themselves directly for national security clearance. They must be sponsored. Only individuals or companies who have been sponsored and who have been contracted, or are in the process of being contracted, to work on specific Ministry of Defence related projects will be provided with the requisite security clearance.

The sponsor must be someone who can verify that the Baseline Personnel Security Standard was done before the individual’s employment, and can also verify that the role requires the individual to have the identified level of clearance.

Is security clearance subject to review?

Security clearance lasts for a specified time and is, therefore, reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the necessary level of clearance (assurance) is maintained.

Levels of Security

There are three national security levels:

  • Developed Vetting (DV)
  • Security Check (SC)
  • Counter Terrorism Check (CTC)

Developed Vetting

Developed vetting is the highest level of National Security Clearance and isrequired for those who require long-term,frequent, and uncontrolled access to top secret information. This involves:

  1. Basic Personnel Security Standard
  2. Department Company Records check
  3. Security Questionnaire
  4. Criminal Records Check
  5. Credit reference check involving a review of personal finances
  6. Security Service Check
  7. Check of medical and psychological information
  8. Subject interview
  9. Further enquiries which may consist of a character reference

Once all this information has been collated, an informed decision will be made. If there is a slight reservation, clearance may be granted – subject to continual monitoring.

Security Check

Security check is the second highest level of National Security Clearance, for those individuals who will have long term, frequent and uncontrolled access to secret information (rather than top secret information). The following stages are carried out for Security Check:

  • Department Company Records check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Records Check
  • Credit reference check involving a review of personal finances
  • Security Service Check

Once all this information has been collated, an informed decision will be made.

Counter Terrorism Check

This is essential for all people who will be working in close proximity to public figures, or who will be working closely with (or have to access to)certain military, civil, industrial or commercial establishments considered to be at particular risk from terrorist attack. The following stages will be completed:

  1. Department Company Records check
  2. Security Questionnaire
  3. Criminal Records Check
  4. Credit reference check involving a review of personal finance
  5. Security Service Check

Once all this information has been collated, an informed decision will be made.

Enhanced Baseline Standard and Basic Personnel Security Standards

These do not provide clearance, as such, but form part of the employment checks that will need to be undertaken when considering employing an individual in the jobs mentioned above.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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