MPs report on arms exports avoids BAE-Saudi fraud row

By staff writers
August 7, 2007

A report on arms exports by a key committee of MPs has failed to examine the Government's recent suspension of a Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE's arms deals with Saudi Arabia, campaigners against the deadly trade have pointed out.

The Quadripartite Committee - which brings together the Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Trade and Industry Select Committees - gave only three paragraphs of its 164-page annual report to the issue, which in recent months has caused huge controversy both in the UK and internationally.

The report merely notes the main details without either criticising or endorsing the Government's decision.

CAAT Parliamentary Co-ordinator Ann Feltham said today: "The Government sparked public outrage with its decision to curtail a corruption inquiry into BAE. This was followed by a string of allegations about BAE in the media."

She continued: "It is bizarre that the Quadripartite Committee can produce 164 pages on arms exports and devote only three paragraphs to the BAE-Saudi controversy. It does not press the Ministry of Defence for answers, even when it is alleged that MoD accounts were used to facilitate corrupt payments to a foreign official, Prince Bandar."

Concludes Feltham: "The Committee is undermining its long-standing reputation for rigour and thoroughness by failing to hold the Government to account."

Among those who have campaigned for the proper accountability of BAE and other arms sellers are church groups. The critics have included former prominent British Methodist president Kenneth Greet.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) was founded in 1974 and works among people of all beliefs and no belief for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.

The Quadripartite Committee includes MPs from the Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Trade and Industry Select Committees. Its annual report is published today.

On 14 December 2006, the Government and the Serious Fraud Office announced that they were suspending an investigation into BAE Systems' arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

CAAT and The Corner House, an anti-corruption NGO, have lodged grounds for a judicial review of this decision.

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