Background to the report

UKSV was established in January 2017, following a merger of previous vetting services by the then Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Following the merger, UKSV was part of the MoD, although security vetting policy was set by the Cabinet Office. We covered this merger as part of our September 2018 investigation into national security vetting which examined the reasons for poor performance levels across UKSV and the subsequent recovery plan.

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There are several different types of vetting levels with the most common being Counter Terrorist Checks (CTC), Security Checks (SC) and Developed Vetting (DV). Since 2018-19, UKSV has received an average of 164,700 CTC and SC clearances and 17,900 DV clearances per year. DV clearance is the most complex and allows individuals access to more sensitive government information and assets than CTC or SC clearance. From 1 January 2022, UKSV also started processing Accreditation Checks, a new legislative requirement for those working in the airline industry. Just over 100,000 of these had been processed by the end of September 2022.

In April 2020 UKSV moved from MoD into the Cabinet Office, where it is part of the Government Security Group. As a result, the Cabinet Office has responsibility for all elements of security vetting, from operational delivery to policy. Some elements of the transition from MoD have not been fully completed and UKSV is still managing legacy elements of the transition. This includes reducing its reliance on MoD’s IT infrastructure as well as opening its own enquiry centre as service enquiries were being routed through MoD.

Scope of the report

This investigation follows on from our investigation into national security vetting in 2018, looking specifically at the role of UKSV. It examines:

  • UKSV’s performance levels
  • the causes of poor performance and what progress UKSV is making in addressing them
  • how UKSV is seeking to modernise and reform security vetting

This investigation does not look at the effectiveness of security vetting in acting as a deterrent and in preventing malign individuals getting access to sensitive government information and assets. It also does not seek to assess any operational impact on government departments that may be related to the timeliness of clearances.

Concluding remarks

National security vetting is of vital importance to the effective functioning of government. If individuals’ clearances are not processed quickly then government departments risk being unable to progress work relating to national security. Once individuals are given clearance it is important that this is reviewed and renewed regularly to ensure that there have not been material changes in their circumstances that might increase the risks associated with them having access to sensitive government information.

The Cabinet Office took on responsibility for the delivery of national security vetting in 2020 following a sustained period of poor performance. UKSV’s record in delivering timely clearances continues to be poor and efforts to recover performance over the past year have included prioritising certain types of clearance at the expense of others. Meanwhile, longer-term efforts to transform the way security vetting is delivered have made little progress, with a clearly set out implementation plan for transforming security vetting still to be agreed.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (18 Jan 2023)

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