Named: 'Dirty dozen' local authorities trying to profit from arms sales - news from ekklesia

Named: 'Dirty dozen' local authorities trying to profit from arms sales - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
31 Mar 2005

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Named: 'Dirty dozen' local authorities trying to profit from arms sales

-31/03/05

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), whose membership includes many Christians and church, has named a 'dirty dozen' local authority pension funds who hold over 1 million shares in BAE Systems, Europeís largest arms manufacture.

The campaign group, whose Christian Network works with other Christian organisations to raise arms trade issues both within national Church structures and within local Church congregations, published its annual survey of organisations with investments in arms companies yesterday.

CAAT surveyed 99 local authority pension funds in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as part of its Clean Investment Campaign 2005.

The twelve authorities include: West Yorkshire, West Midlands, Strathclyde, Lancashire, South Yorkshire, Kent, Derbyshire, East Riding (Yorkshire), Hampshire, Teeside, Essex and the London Borough of Southwark.

CAAT is calling for all local authorities to adopt ethical investment criteria and to not invest in arms exporting companies.

The groupsís latest survey revealed that at least 6 local authority pension funds hold no shares in the six arms companies identified.

The group says there are at least another 27 local authority pension funds that have no BAE Systems investments at all.

CAAT is targeting UK based BAE Systems as it is this countryís largest arms exporting company, which is says sells "indiscriminately" and undermines peace and security.

The group also points out that putting ethical reasons aside, investment in BAE Systems is financially risky. It is dependent on government subsidies; if these end, then so will shareholdersí profits (CAAT estimates that government subsidy for arms exports are worth about £890 million each year).

There are also ongoing corruption allegations and investigations, including by the Serious Fraud Office of BAE Systems - one debt rating service put BAE Systems on a ínegative ratings watchí following the companyís announcement of this investigation last year.

Ian Prichard, CAAT Research Co-ordinator said; "Local authority pension funds are being invested in arms companies which export to countries in conflict zones or regimes with unacceptable human rights records. Public money is invested in these
pension funds often without the knowledge or agreement of contributors or people living in the local authority. Itís about time public money was invested for the public good and that means excluding arms exporters such as BAE Systems."

CAATís Clean Investment Campaign started in 1991. The survey shows local authorities, charities, health organisations, religious organisations, educational institutions and their investment in arms companies.

The group undertakes its annual survey by scrutinising the share registers of the six largest arms companies based in the UK and then checking with the pension funds for: BAE Systems, Rolls Royce Group, GKN, Smiths Group, Cobham and VT Group.

Since the 2004 survey there have been several significant changes. The last two large Church arms company shareholdings have been sold - the Church of Englandís holding in Smiths Group and the United Reformed Church Trustís holding in GKN.

Five years ago the Church of England adopted ethical investment criteria excluding arms company holdings.

The full survey can be found online here

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