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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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.
Alas, it was none of these. To be fair, it did involve the rights of living beings – in this case wild animals. MPs united in support of a law that would ban lions, tigers and other wild animals from circus shows in the UK. The government had tried to impose a three-line whip, backbenchers had refused to knuckle under and a heartfelt debate on the wrongs of animal mistreatment ensued. Read more »
Ann Feltham, CAAT’s Parliamentary Co-ordinator, attended the International Development Committee hearing on 19 July which saw BAE under attack by MPs for its shameful inaction in paying £29.5 million to the Government of Tanzania.
Media eyes may have been focused on the Murdochs’ Select Committee appearance, but the real pleasure for CAAT supporters was the International Development Committee hearing which took place on the same day. The focus was “Financial Crime and Development” and, in particular, BAE’s military radar deal with Tanzania which had been the subject of a plea bargain between the company and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in February 2010.
BAE’s sacrificial goats up before the MPs were Legal Counsel Philip Bramwell and the company’s Head of Government Relations Bob Keen. Why, the MPs demanded to know, had BAE not paid over the £29.5million for the benefit of the Tanzanian people which was part of the plea bargain and confirmed by Judge Bean in the Crown Court in December. Read more »