Fantasy and reality at BAE’s AGM

BAE AGM 2012
The BAE AGM: far removed from reality

Symon Hill reports from the Annual General Meeting of the world’s second-largest arms company.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the BAE Systems Annual General Meeting. Shareholders were today welcomed into the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, to be greeted by plush carpets, free coffee and glamorous posters featuring BAE staff saying how great it is to work for one of the world’s largest arms dealers (they don’t quite put it quite like that).

Afterwards, the AGM itself was underway, with presentations and displays about “total performance” and “a culture of responsible behaviour”. A brief film attempted to demonstrate the diversity of BAE’s staff (not reflected on the board of directors), with gender, age and ethnicity very varied. None of them mentioned what BAE really does. The worker on the film with a visible mobility impairment did not mention how much cheaper mobility equipment would be if those who produce it were to receive the same subsidies that go to arms companies.

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The government’s golfing gunrunners

Looking through the media after arriving in the CAAT office this morning, I was greeted by unexpected coverage of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) – a government unit that is the focus of CAAT’s new core campaign.

UKTI promotes exports – including arms exports.  However, the news today was not about the arms trade. It was about golf.

Tory MP Humfrey Malins discovered that UKTI has spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on branded golf balls – £12,030.50 in the last three years to be precise.

However, wasting taxpayers’ money seems to be par for the course at UKTI. Although arms make up less than 2% of the UK’s visible exports, UKTI employs about as many staff in its arms promotion unit as in all its civil industry-specific sectors combined.

That’s before we’ve even considered the human costs involved in the export of arms to conflict areas and oppressive regimes.

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