NGOs tell Government that Eurofighter jobs claim is “pure fantasy”

8 December 2006

Concerned NGOs have written to the Government to insist that a Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE Systems must not be curtailed. They refute recent claims that 50,000 UK jobs are at risk if BAE Systems loses a contract to sell Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia. The letter is signed by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), The Corner House, British American Security Information Council (BASIC)and Saferworld.

The letter refers to a report commissioned by Eurofighter that indicates that the deal would create less than 5,000 jobs in the UK. The NGOs insist that even this figure is optimistically high, not least because of UK Government statements that "many skilled jobs" would be based in Saudi Arabia. The NGOs deny claims made in a recent letter to the Government from the Defence Industries Council that the fraud inquiry will harm the UK economy by threatening the Eurofighter deal.

The NGOs' letter states that:

"As you will know, claims being widely touted in the media that 50,000 UK jobs are at stake are pure fantasy."

The NGOs welcome the Government's recent commitments to tackling corruption and argue that the UK's credibility would be undermined if ministers intervened in this inquiry. The letter points out that fraud cases tend to be very complex and that the time taken by the investigation is entirely reasonable.

The letter goes on to state that:

"As no evidence has been produced that the Serious Fraud Office has been unduly slow in its investigation, it is only right that it should be allowed to proceed and not brought to a premature conclusion by political pressure."

The letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, with copies sent to all other Cabinet ministers. It is an open letter and copies are available on request.

ENDS

For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Media Co-ordinator, Symon Hill on 020 7281 0297 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.

Notes

1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.

2. The Corner House is a not-for-profit social and environmental justice group. British American Security Information Council (BASIC) is an independent research organisation that analyses government policies and promotes public awareness of defence, disarmament, military strategy and nuclear policies in order to foster informed debate. Saferworld is an independent NGO that works to prevent armed violence.

3. The letter was sent today (8th December 2006) to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling MP. A copy was sent to every other member of the Cabinet. It was signed by Nicholas Gilby (CAAT), Nicholas Hildyard (The Corner House), Ian Davis (BASIC) and David de Beer (Saferworld). The letter is available here.

4. Since 2003, the Serious Fraud Office has been investigating BAE Systems' dealings with Saudi Arabia. The inquiry has broadened to include matters relating to Chile, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania. BAE Systems has denied all allegations of corruption and stated that it is co-operating with the inquiry.

5. In December 2005, it was announced that Saudi Arabia had agreed a multibillion pound deal to buy Eurofighter jets from BAE Systems. In November 2006, it was reported that the Saudi authorities had suspended talks on the deal due to the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

6. A report was commissioned by the Eurofighter PR and Communications Office and published on 16th June 2006. It is entitled The Industrial and Economic Benefits of the Eurofighter Typhoon and was written by Professor Keith Hartley of the Centre of Defence Economics at the University of York. The report states that by Eurofighter's own figures, around 11,000 jobs would be created across the whole of Europe, indicating less than 5,000 in the UK.

7. On 4th October 2006, the Defence Procurement Agency stated in a letter to CAAT that the Eurofighter deal "would generate many skilled jobs in Saudi Arabia".

8. The suggestion that the cancellation of the Eurofighter deal with Saudi Arabia would threaten 50,000 British jobs has appeared several times in the media since 27th November 2006.

9. On 4th December 2006 it was reported that the Defence Industries Council, representing the heads of UK arms companies, had written to the Trade and Industry Secretary to suggest that the Serious Fraud Office investigation was a threat to the UK economy.

10. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview on this subject.

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