Anti-arms trade campaigners have reacted with incredulity after the Chairman of BAE Systems appeared to dismiss the conclusions of the Nimrod Review. Mr Dick Olver was answering questions in a public meeting after delivering the Mountbatten Memorial Lecture at the Institute for Engineering and Technology (IET) on the evening of 12 November.
Mr Olver's lecture was entitled "Solving global challenges requires ethical leadership" - an ironic title given BAE's current situation with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Charles Haddon-Cave QC's report on the Nimrod explosion of 2006. BAE, which was contracted to manage maintenance and safety issues on the RAF's Nimrod fleet, was strongly criticised in the report.
Mr Olver was asked a question about the Nimrod incident, which resulted in the deaths of 14 British servicemen when a Nimrod plane exploded over Afghanistan during refuelling. By way of response, Mr Olver said that the Nimrod Review had interviewed only 19 BAE officials. Questioned as to whether BAE was following its own ethical guidelines, Mr Olver said he would not "be blown off course by comments about 19 people or anything else."
Despite the wet and windy night, supporters from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) made their presence felt outside the venue by staging a humorous riposte to Olver's message. Protesters dressed as clowns to illustrate the farcical nature of the event, while a laughter machine cackled through the night air.
Some campaigners also attended the lecture and asked searching questions of Mr Olver. They included Sarah Waldron, CAAT Core Campaigns Coordinator, and Symon Hill, Associate Director of Ekklesia and former CAAT Media Coordinator.
For further comment please contact CAAT's Press Co-ordinator on 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.
1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade together with progressive demilitarisation within arms producing countries. Around 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters and CAAT is strictly non-violent in all its work.
2. On 1 October 2009 the Serious Fraud Office announced that it would begin prosecution proceedings against BAE Systems for alleged corruption and false accounting in its arms sales to four countries: the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania. A summary of known investigations into BAE is available on CAAT website here.
3. On 28 October 2009 an enquiry into the fatal fire on RAF Nimrod VX230, which resulted in the deaths of 14 British servicemen in the skies over Afghanistan in 2006, chaired by lawyer Mr Haddon-Cave, found that BAE Systems was in breach of its contractual obligations and rather than assist the enquiry had built " a wall of denial and obfuscation". He said that "BAE Systems was in breach of its contractual obligations ...in failing to use reasonable care and skill... The responsibility must lie with the leadership of the company."
4. Mr Olver is a civil engineer who spent thirty years with oil company BP before becoming Non-Executive Chairman of BAE Systems in July 2004. He has Honorary Doctorates in Science from City University and Cranfield University.