06 May 2008
BAE ethics report ignores central questions
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) suggests that a new ethics report commissioned by BAE Systems will not change public perceptions of the company. The report has been published today by a committee chaired by Lord Woolf that excluded consideration of some of the most basic ethical issues, including the nature of the arms trade itself and the sale of weapons to despotic regimes such as Saudi Arabia.
Much of the report is geared towards internal processes relating to corruption and bribery and the committee attempts to distance the company from corruption allegations by stressing how BAE has changed over the past decade. However, many of the allegations relate to more recent events and the attitude towards them is worrying since the present Chairman and Chief Executive were in post when BAE lobbied to end the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Tomorrow will see BAE's first AGM since CAAT, alongside anti-corruption organisation The Corner House, brought a successful legal challenge over the termination of the SFO's investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals. CAAT is organising a peaceful protest from 10.00am outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London SW1, where the AGM takes place. There will be a photo stunt at 10.30 to illustrate attempts to sweep the reality of BAE's arms trading under the carpet. When the AGM begins at 11.00, several CAAT supporters will be present as token shareholders to question the board.
CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said:
"BAE is on the run from public opinion. This report will do nothing to reverse BAE's unpopularity with the British public. It is absurd to ask a committee to report on the ethics of an arms company without even considering whether it is ethical to arm dictatorships, or to engage in the arms trade at all. However, we will watch closely to see if there are any meaningful changes that come about as a result of the report."
1. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters' donations and CAAT is strictly nonviolent in all its work.
2. CAAT spokespeople are available for interview.
3. The judgment of the High Court was handed down on 10th April 2008 by Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan, following a judicial review brought by The Corner House and CAAT. They ruled that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), on the advice of the government, had acted unlawfully by terminating an investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals on 14th December 2006, following lobbying by BAE and Saudi representatives. The Saudi regime had threatened to cancel an arms deal and withdraw diplomatic and intelligence co-operation. This was described by the judges as a "successful attempt by a foreign government to pervert the course of justice in the United Kingdom". On 24th April, the High Court formally quashed the decision to terminate the investigation.
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