UK arms giant accused of wasting taxpayers' money

By staff writers
January 30, 2008

The giant arms company BAE Systems is so far over budget with two of its latest projects that they will cost UK taxpayers £2.2 billion more than expected, a government report acknowledges. Peace campaigners say it is a scandal.

The figure is revealed in a report by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, which looks at BAE's contracts with the Ministry of Defence. The Committee found that the budget for BAE's Astute Submarines has increased by 47% and the budget for BAE's Type 45 Destroyer ships by 18 per cent.

Symon Hill, spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which is backed by human rights, church and peace groups, said: "This is outrageous. BAE has once again been exposed as a drain on taxpayers' money."

Hill continued: "This waste is on top of the roughly £850 million spent every year on subsidies for the arms trade. BAE is a burden, not a benefit, for the British economy."

The news comes only weeks ahead of a High Court case in which the Government's relationship with BAE will come under scrutiny. On 14 and 15 February 2008, lawyers for CAAT and The Corner House will argue that the Government behaved illegally in cutting short a Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals.

BAE is building four Astute Submarines for the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which were expected to cost £2.578 billion. The current forecast is £3.798 billion. BAE is also providing the MoD with six Type 45 Destroyer ships, expected to cost £5.475 billion but now forecast to cost £6.464 billion.

In December 2006, the Government and the Serious Fraud Office cut short a corruption investigation into BAE's arms deals with the regime of Saudi Arabia.

CAAT and The Corner House, an environmental and social justice NGO, have received permission to pursue a judicial review of this decision. From 14th-15th February, the High Court will consider if the Government behaved illegally by suspending the investigation.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT - works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.

The Christian student campaigning body SPEAK has also been involved in campaigning on arms trade issues, including BAE and the abolition of the Defence Export Services Organisation, recently announced by PM Gordon Brown.

Getting rid of DESO is regarded by many as CAAT's greatest achivement so far, and indicates that concerted public pressure can shift the agenda toward manufacture for peace rather than export for war, say activists.

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