BAE Systems 'ethics report' misses the moral point, say activists

By staff writers
6 May 2008

Anti-arms trade campaigners say that a new 'ethics' report commissioned by weapons giant BAE Systems will not change public perceptions of the company, following a High Court ruling over investigations into corruption charges.

The report has been published today (6 May 2008) by a committee chaired by Lord Woolf. It excluded consideration of some of the most basic ethical issues, including the nature of the arms trade itself and the sale of weapons to despotic regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

Much of the report is geared towards internal processes relating to corruption and bribery and the committee attempts to distance the company from corruption allegations by stressing how BAE has changed over the past decade, says Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

However, many of the allegations relate to more recent events and the attitude towards them is worrying, says CAAT, since the present Chairman and Chief Executive were in post when BAE lobbied to end the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Tomorrow will see BAE's first AGM since CAAT, alongside anti-corruption organisation The Corner House, brought a successful legal challenge over the termination of the SFO's investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals.

CAAT is organising a peaceful protest from 10.00am outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London SW1, where the AGM takes place.

There will be a photo opportunity at 10.30 to illustrate the Prime Minister tipping the scales of justice in favour of BAE. When the AGM begins at 11.00, several CAAT supporters will be present as token shareholders to question the board.

CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said: "BAE is on the run from public opinion. This report will do nothing to reverse BAE's unpopularity with the British public. It is absurd to ask a committee to report on the ethics of an arms company without even considering whether it is ethical to arm dictatorships, or to engage in the arms trade at all. However, we will watch closely to see if there are any meaningful changes that come about as a result of the report."

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