A government minister has indicated that the £57m management fee being claimed by Nick Buckles of the fiasco-prone Olympic security firm G4S could be reduced, as Whitehall tries to "work through" the penalty clauses which could be applied after the firm failed to produce thousands of guards.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson said he continued to have confidence in G4S to work with the government, police and military to deliver as many staff as possible, but he refused to express confidence in Nick Buckles, saying only: "What happens to Mr Buckles afterwards is a matter for others."
Nick Buckles has insisted he won't resign as the boss of G4S, saying his own future is his "third priority" behind trying to make the Olympics contract work and restoring his company's reputation, something he admitted on Tuesday is "in tatters".
The police and military have been drafted in to plug a widening black hole in Olympics security cover, but it remains unclear how many officers will be deployed because G4S appears unable to declare how many people it expected to provide will simply fail to turn up for work.
There has been a degree of confusion over whether the penalty clauses raised by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday could be exacted from the £57m management fee, which to the astonishment of MPs Buckles says he will still claim.
The government had previously suggested that G4S could forefit as much as £20m for its failure to supply staff, but other reports attributed to senior government sources suggested that the contract had no penalty clauses at all.
Although Robertson wouldn't put a price on failure for G4S, his comments at least clarify that the £57m management fee claimed by Buckles is likely to be reduced.
Appearing before MPs on Tuesday Nick Buckles said he "could not disagree" with claims that G4S's handling of its major Olympics security contract had been a "humiliating shambles for the company and the country", but said the firm would still be claiming its management fee because it was still providing thousands of security staff.
But at the same time the company's failure to keep its end of the bargain became apparent when only a small fraction of the expected numbers of security guards turned up for work at Box Hill, a major cycling venue just outside London.
Hugh Robertson said the G4S contract was "in the hands of lawyers", but pledged the government would "not spend a penny more of taxpayers' money on the security of the games."
"We are activating penalty clauses of the contract," said Robertson. "We are working through that."
But the minister was unwilling to give a timescale on when any money would change hands between G4S and the government, suggesting that the contract negotiations would continue beyond the Olympics.
Robertson also rejected claims that the opening ceremony for the games was being cut short because of the fiasco surrounding G4S. He claimed that the show was being curtailed because of concerns that people would not be able to get back from the Olympic park in east London to the centre of the capital in time to catch the last trains departing from overground stations.
The closing ceremony is expected to now finish shortly after midnight, because the last trains leave major London terminals at 2:30am.
"It genuinely has nothing to do with G4S," Robertson insisted.