FAO Newsdesks - 22nd February 2001
CAAT Raises Concerns about Electronic Share Dealing System Obscuring Public Accountability
Investments by Labour Party, Leukaemia Research Fund and Leading Public Institutions in Arms Export Trade Revealed
Campaign Against Arms Trade, in the tenth year of its clean investment campaign, is raising deep concerns about the democratic accountability of arms export firms and those who finances them. Alan McLaughlin of CAAT said: "Considering the majority of the public have shown they are in favour of ethical investments and against arms exports, except to our closest allies, it is still being ignored by the major political parties as an election issue. The public is left to make their concerns known through consumer choice, which depends upon clear information to make an informed decision."
He continued: "The CREST electronic share dealing system obscures who the beneficial owner of a shareholder is and replaces this with an undesignated nominee account. At a time when the public expect more transparency and accountability, the implications of CREST parallel an arms trade which is shrouded in secrecy."
Campaign Against Arms Trade
today revealed investments by leading UK public institutions including:
CAAT's report highlights investments in the six leading arms companies in the UK: BAE Systems, Alvis, GKN, Hunting, Cobham and Rolls Royce.
These companies have sold and are currently selling weapons to countries involved in conflict, to repressive regimes, areas of tension and developmentally needy countries.
(General quote) Alan McLaughlin of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "These organisations are answerable to the public who fund them. Polls have shown that people do not want to fund the deaths, poverty and repression caused by the arms trade - a trade which is government subsidised and a drain on the British economy. There is nothing stopping these institutions investing ethically - by not doing so they treat the public with contempt."
He continued: "What is also disturbing is that CREST, the electronic share dealing system, obscures who really owns the investment, allowing institutions to become unaccountable to the people they serve."
(Leukaemia Research Fund) Kevin Mullen of CAAT said:"For a medical organisation to invest in the arms trade and profit from the misery it helps cause is totally inconsistent with the principles of medicine. For a charity funded partly by the public, whose work is to research and hence combat leukaemia, to invest in BAE Systems, the UK's exclusive supplier of Depleted uranium weaponry, is inexcusable. Health concerns have multiplied over the last few months about the use of DU and one of the worries is that it may cause leukaemia. While more research is needed in this area, it is extremely problematic for the Leukaemia Research Fund to retain its shareholding on the grounds of these concerns, let alone the general death and deprivation caused by the arms trade."
(Labour Party) Alan McLaughlin of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The fact that the Labour Party has holdings, via its pension funds, in an arms company like BAE Systems is thoroughly indicative of the cosy relationship between the party and the weapons industry. Tony Blair is a friend of the arms dealers and the Labour Party's failure to adopt an ethical investment policy in its pension fund reflects this. The majority of the public supports ethical investment and is opposed to arming the very regimes that BAE routinely does business with. By investing in this deadly industry the Labour Party is, once again, ignoring the concerns of the public."
He continued: "There is an obvious conflict of interests here: the Labour government is charged with making decisions on arms exports from which the Labour Party stand to benefit financially."
Contact Alan McLaughlin, Kevin Mullen or Robin Oakley
on +44-(0)-20 7281 0297 (office) 0958 449 006 (mob - 24 hours)