FAO Newsdesks - Tuesday 29 April 2003
'Coalition of willing' NGOs to quiz BAE Systems Plc at AGM
Lobby groups including the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Landmine Action and Friends of the Earth will be attending the annual general meeting of BAE Systems Plc, Britain's largest arms manufacturer, on Tuesday 29 April at 10.30 am.
A protest and photo opportunities will take place at 9.30 am at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster.
CAAT activists who hold token shares in the company will question members of the board inside the AGM about their commitment to corporate responsibility and UK arms export rules in the context of:
- Ongoing bids to sell Hawk multipurpose jets to India worth £1bn. (India is the top recipient of UK Department For International Development aid at £100m per year and vacillates on the verge of conflict with neighbouring Pakistan.)
- The sale of Head-up displays (including bomb-guidance instruments) and avionics components to Israel whilst their defence forces undertook punitive, collective punishment, counter-terrorism measures in Palestinian Authority areas during 2001 and 2002.
- General ethics. BAE have sold jet aircraft and military equipment to Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Qatar (knowing them to be redirected to Algeria) throughout the 1990s and beyond.
- The status of BAE's £28m air-traffic control system deal with the Tanzanian government. This superficially innocuous package was unusually condemned by the World Bank for costing four times the necessary expenditure. International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) argued: "the system, as contracted, is primarily a military system and can provide limited support to civil air control purposes." Tanzania is one of the world's "ten poorest nations" according to the World Bank.
Martin Hogbin, CAAT's National Campaigns Co-ordinator said:
"BAE claim to be 'innovating for a safer world', but surely this slogan is absurd, especially for those in Asia and Africa who have been on the wrong-end of this company's weapons sales."
Mr Hogbin continued:
"There are government rules in places to stop the sale of military equipment to areas of conflict, extreme poverty and human rights abuses. We call on BAE to act with much more corporate responsibility and follow these rules."
This year's AGM will see the introduction of former defence secretary Michael Portillo, now BAE Systems highest-profile director, to the gathering of BAE shareholders.
For further information please contact the CAAT press office on 0207 281 0297 or email: press(at)caat·org·uk
Photos: available from CAAT press office or outside the QEII Conference Centre before the AGM begins at 10.30 am.