On 26 April, Sam Walton took the stage to disrupt Vince Cable’s speech at a government arms sales conference.
We didn’t think we’d get in. The UKTI DSO Symposium is the biggest event of the year for Britain’s exporters of “defence & security” gear – so you’d think they’d have better security.
We wandered into the hotel past the police and made our way towards the entrance to the Symposium. Not having the faintest idea where anything was, we were helpfully directed to the ground floor where registration and the first networking and mingling of the day was taking place. Amazing how far a nice suit can get you.
Kaye Stearman asks: “Why do MPs care so passionately about animal rights while failing to tackle issues like the arms trade?”
One night in June as I was drifting off to sleep, I was galvanised by the passionate debate being played out on the normally soporific Today in Parliament on Radio 4. The programme is noted for its erudition in the explanation of arcane bills and ministerial soundbites but to hear genuine anger and passionate advocacy is rare.
Even more surprising was that the debate was led by backbenchers and cut across partly lines. Who, I wondered, were these MPs and what was their cause. Surely it must involve an issue such as violation of human rights, poverty, famine, war or the arms trade.
My BAE AGM virginity was about to come to an end as I entered the Queen Elizabeth Conference centre, where no expense had been spared on lavish security measures to welcome proxy shareholders like myself. The BAE chairman Dick Olver’s introductory statement included a shareholder-pleasing boast about a 13.3% proposed increase in the 2007 dividend. However, much of his presentation was devoted to this year’s hot topic, business ethics. He acknowledged the reputational damage that the whole SFO affair had done but kept stressing that “our” company had never been found guilty of any wrongdoings in four years of SFO scrutiny, conveniently omitting the fact that the investigation was halted just as it was making good progress unearthing useful details from Swiss bank accounts. Continue reading “BAE Systems AGM, 7 May 2008”
April the High Court handed down a ruling in favour of CAAT and The Corner House, finding that the government had buckled under pressure from a Saudi prince and unlawfully ended the investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Given the landmark status of the Court’s judgment a press conference was held to field the massive media interest, and arriving early before the ruling was made public, the tension and sense of trepidation in the air was tangible.
Having never met a journalist before (never mind attended a press conference) I shared in the mood of nervous excitement as I helped to welcome and register the mixed bag of scruffy ruffians and suit-clad media people that would constitute our audience. Weaving through the throng I overheard a well-known journalist speaking on his mobile phone. He described the Court’s judgement as ‘withering’ and said he’d never heard anything like it. Despite the unassuming look of many, their tardy tendancies and willingness to squash into a room already packed to the rafters, journalists are tough. They often hold a lot of sway in whether and how the public recieves a story, and this press conference would be a crucial chance for CAAT to elucidate a stronger stance for supporters and answer back to critics. Representatives from two dozen media houses attended, reflecting the truly national implications of CAAT’s court case and maximising exposure for an important but oft-overlooked cause. Continue reading “CAAT Press Conference As CAAT Wins Landmark Case Against Government”
Just a quick one to say how excited I am that CAAT and Corner house have won the court case last Friday :). The permission has now been granted to bring a full judicial review against the governments decision to cut short a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged corruption by BAE Systems in recent arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
That really is fantastic news!
Well done to everyone who campaigned for the SFO inquiry to be re-opened and thanks a million to those of you who helped me raise 280 quid on pledegebank for CAAT to go ahead with the legal challenge. The money really helped to make a difference. Or as my friend Masa put it: “That was 10 quid well spent!”:) Continue reading “CAAT wins again !”
The beginning of CAAT’s designated “Stop the Arms Trade Week”, 2nd June, coincided with activities organised under “The World Can’t Wait” banner and London CAAT produced a small leaflet to tie in issues of poverty, lack of development and the more than £1118 billion spent annually on arms, which puts into pathetic perspective the amounts the G8 promises and does not deliver to the world’s poorest countries.
A few of us headed down to Archbishop’s Park by Lambeth Palace and later to the banks of the Thames, to offer our support to the idea of “waking up the G8”. Dressed in white and packing alarm clocks, bells, horns and drums, the protesters were up for it. At 2:00, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, the banks between them and even boats on the river resounded with unheeded wake-up calls. Continue reading “Stop the Arms Trade Week”
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. Continue reading “News from Bristol”
CAAT staff and supporters were down at the High Court yesterday. Some weeks ago one of Britain’s leading arms companies, BAE Systems, got hold of a confidential CAAT document and wouldn’t tell anyone how.
Well – now they have to :). The High Court ruled yesterday that BAE Systems has to deliver a sworn legally binding statement telling us how they obtained the confidential information.