Activists raise questions at Rolls Royce’ AGM
This morning a group of peace activists from Sheffield used Rolls Royce’ AGM as a chance to challenge the board about their involvement with the development and production of propulsion systems for Trident submarines.
The activists highlighted the fact that power of a Trident submarine is 1000 times more destructive than the bomb used at Hiroshima and asked what the company’s response would be to a Trident nuclear strike, and what they anticipated the impact would be on shareholders.
The activists also held up banners that said “No More Trident” and “Trident Kills.” They asked further questions about alternative uses for Roils Royce engineering expertise, such as green energy to sustain the planet, and whether taxpayers would have to pay for Rolls Royce’s lost investment, if Trident was not replaced.
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The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign governments. This scene comes from the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.
The fringe issue of arms export criteria became headline news today (17 July), with The Independent’s splash on an “‘arms for dictators” scandal. A parliamentary report by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) raised a few eyebrows, but the embarrassment of the government approving arms sales to 25 out of 27 of the countries blacklisted as human rights abusers will soon vanish.
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David Cameron has just returned from yet another overseas trade mission – this time to India.
It’s been billed as the largest UK trade mission ever, with over 100 delegates – government ministers, MPs, “leaders of industry”, university grandees and assorted hangers-on. In the name of cementing trade ties we have seen Cameron playing cricket, laying wreaths and promising quicker visas for Indian students.
“Would you like to buy this Eurofighter Typhoon, sir?”
All this flummery rather disguises the main aim of the trade mission to flog arms to India, which in recent years has emerged as one of the world’s largest arms buyers. So it is worth having a closer look at who accompanied Cameron and what they might be selling.
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Why did Lord Green take the Trade Minister post when he clearly had problems with the ethics of arms sales? Kaye Stearman ruminates on ethics, religion and arms sales.
What started out green, then rapidly turned yellow, white and red?. No, it’s not a chameleon. It’s the new UK Trade Minister. Why? Well, he is called Green, quickly turned yellow, waved the white flag of surrender, and then grew red with embarassment – as did the government.
Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint takes his seat in the House of Lords
This is the background to the riddle. For months the Coalition government had been seeking a Trade Minister, someone with gravitas and international contacts, to act as a public face of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). They thought that they had hit the jackpot with Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint – after all he is a newly appointed Tory Lord just stepping down from the Chairmanship of banking giant HBSC and an ordained Church of England priest. What’s not to like?
Lord Green’s dilemma
Unfortunately Lord Green is reputed not to like weapons companies, so much so that he decided that HBSC would no longer provide financial services to those companies who manufactured arms such as landmines, cluster bombs and combat aircraft. However, according to the Telegraph of 7 January, “the bank retains BAE Systems as a client and its senior non-executive director, Sir Simon Robertson, is chairman of Rolls-Royce”, so clearly the adversion to arms goes only so far. Read more »
Barnaby Pace writes
On Thursday 15 January a group of Warwick University students, in opposition to the arms trade and in solidarity with Gaza, protested at a recruitment event run by BAE and Warwick University Careers Service.
Why BAE? Is it especially unethical? Just look at their record. BAE is the third largest arms manufacturer in the world. So much has come to light in the last few years with the discoveries, investigations and court cases surrounding the Al-Yamamah arms deal to Saudi Arabia, in which BAE systems was the primary supplier of weaponry. It is alleged that BAE paid over £1 billion in bribes to members of the Saudi regime.
But this case is not unique – BAE is currently being investigated over bribery allegations Arms companies are often not willing to disclose who their customers are (especially for arms components); this may be common practice among many businesses, citing “commercial confidentiality”. However, most businesses do not need to hide that they sold fighter jets to Robert Mugabe (as BAE and Rolls Royce have) or torture equipment for Guantanamo Bay (BAE subsidiary Hiatts). Nor are reputable business alleged to give a cool £1 million in bribes to the late, but not lamented, General Pinochet (BAE again). All good reasons for protesting and the inclusion of Israel in its (very colourful) list of customers made action particularly important at this time for us.
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London CAAT decided on a “Merchants of Death” walk as one part of our “Stop the Arms Trade Week”. Rather than a series of protests, this was a more sedate tour of Central London, with descriptions of certain companies thrown in. So thirteen of us met outside Victoria station and even had the sun shining on us. In terms of the types of companies we went to, there was a clear distinction.
Obviously, we took in major military producers and arms dealers such as BAE Systems, Boeing UK, Rolls Royce, Lockheed Martin (including INSYS), QinetiQ, MATRA BAe, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Land Rover Leyland International Holdings. Among such “Merchants of Death” there is a long history of corruption, sometimes involving countries with serious records of human rights abuse, which underlines how indiscriminate the trade is.
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A London CAAT map on platial.com has won a site award in the “Activism” category. The map, called London Arms Trade, shows the locations of the offices of weapons manufacturers and distributors in London.
When the local London group was set up, it was determined to highlight the immorality of the ‘defence’ industry. The map was created using CAAT’s resources and the British Defence Equipment Catalogue, to begin to pinpoint those involved in making London the capital of the world arms-broking trade.
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UK Students tell their universities it’s time to ditch their arms shares
On 27 February Students across Britain joined protests against their universities’ links with the arms trade. They called for an end to university arms investments. Students dressed as arms dealers roamed the campuses of University College London (UCL), Warwick, Manchester and other universities and tried to “sell” toy guns and missiles to their fellow students to raise awareness about the links between their universities and arms companies.
Student campaigners at UCL wearing black suits and sun glasses approached fellow students with the opening line “Excuse me, can I interest you in any missile components today ?” Many students, staff and prospective students, who had a look around UCL that day, stopped to sign a petition and to talk to campaigners about the continued arms investments.
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Sorry I am so late in posting this. But it is a good time for it, as we have just had a successful public meeting this evening organised by Bristol CAAT, on the title “A law unto themselves: BAE, the arms trade and corruption”. The speakers were Nick Gilby (fellow blogger here) and Nick Hildyard of Cornerhouse.
We relaunched Bristol CAAT just about two years ago – we’ve been a bit on and off to be honest, based most of the time round a few most active people, but we’ve managed to put on a number of pretty good events – public meetings, dayschools, forums, protests at careers fairs where arms companies were recruiting and the like – as well as a very good research programme carried out by students at Bristol University, Tom, Maeve and Sarika, pulling together information on the activities of local arms company bases – including major BAE and Rolls Royce plants. Lately, we’ve had a few new people getting involved and enthused, so we’re hoping to become more active in the near future.
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