Posts Tagged ‘Wharton’

Private Eye on Britain’s Arms Sales to both Russia and Ukraine

March 16, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye issue for 8th – 21st August 2014, reporting how Britain was selling arms to both Ukraine and Russia during the conflict over the country’s civil conflict over links with Russia.

World at War

It’s not just UK arms sales to Russia and Israel that should cause concern: there is plenty of equally fascinating material about other deals buried in the 56 page parliamentary report [Scrutiny of Arms Exports and Arms Controls (2014)]

The UK has been exporting arms to Russia for at least a decade – but lest anyone accuse us of taking sides, we have also been supplying arms to Ukraine at the same time.

Despite government “concerns”, components for sniper rifles, among other weapons paraphernalia, have been sold to Ukraine – the same components for the same sniper rifles that have been sold to Russia. In the Ukrainian deal, the weapons were described as “hunting rifles”, perhaps to avoid the embarrassing prospect of the UK being outed as a supplier of similar weapons to both sides of the same conflict, which it is.

Meanwhile, the Syrians have also been sold UK “dual use chemicals”, which could easily be turned into a weapon.

At the same time, Iraq, now embroiled in its own conflict with Jihadists spilling over the Syrian border is also a recipient of British weaponry, including small arms and ammunition. Inside Iraq a bevy of “sneaky-beaky” special forces types are tasked with stopping the Jihadis from Syria from cutting off Iraqi oil supplies. “They”-the SAS-are not covered by export licences, but they will be fighting Jihadists using equipment that is.

I’ve put up pieces before about the government profiteering from selling arms to some of the worst despots in the world, such as Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are using some of the ‘wonderful things’ Cameron raved about when he visited BAE Systems plant in Wharton, Lancashire, to butcher Shia civilians in Yemen. And then there’s this, showing that Cameron’s government was merrily supplying guns and equipment to both sides in the murderous conflict in that country.

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Private Eye on Parliamentary Committee Scrutinizing Arms Trade

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for the 15th-28th November 2013 reporting the questioning of representatives of the arms trade by a parliamentary committee in that issue’s ‘Called to Ordure’ column. It’s still relevant now, after nearly three years, because of the way we are still selling arms to brutal, anti-democratic regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t call them “missiles” or “landmines”, and certainly not “tools of military repression”. They are, according to the arms trade, “goods”, and the foreign regimes that buy them are “the ultimate end users of the goods”.

So heard MPs more than once when Westminster’s arms export controls select committee took evidence from four “defence exporters” (to use another euphemism). Unofficial leader of this genteel quartet was middle-aged Brummie called David Hayes from the Export Group for Aerospace and Defence, a trade lobbying group which uses the acronym Egad. Egad, indeed.

Alongside Hayes: arms-trade consultant Michael Bell; Susan Griffiths from weapons manufacturer MBDA; and Bernadette Peers, from the Strategic Shipping Company, a company name so bland you might believe it was exporting nothing more dangerous than cauliflowers to the Canaries.

MPs noted that government reporting on arms dealers has been reduced, Whitehall’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) now doing only an annual report of statistics instead of the quarterly updates it used to offer. The people from Egad were breezily unconcerned by this, insisting it made no difference. Hayes said there was a “very, very low risk” that less frequent reporting of special arms-sale licences wold be detrimental to transparency.

Three critics of the arms trade also gave evidence. Roy Isbister, from conflict-reduction group Saferworld, said that the reduction in ECO’s reports had come as “a bombshell”. You can say that again, Roy. Several bombshells, really, packed and ready for shipping. Oxfam had sent along one Martin Butcher. With that surname, shouldn’t he have been on the other side of the argument?

Committee chairman Sir John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) wondered if the arms dealers were concerned about “extra-territorial” prosecutions, under which a British arms trader may be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she breaks British law while abroad. Bell was most aggrieved by this. “We have reservations of principle!” he declared, this peddler of munitions with a highly-tuned sense of ethics.

Extra-territorial prosecutions meant that a business executive would be “subject to two jurisdictions for the same actions” and that offended Bell’s strong sense of morality. Bell also had “reservations of practice” because “the only people who suffer are the compliant”.

Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) noted that the United States had recently relaxed its arms-trade licence requirements, meaning US weapons manufacturers can now export pretty much willy-nilly to 36 countries where they would previously have faced greater government checks. Hayes argued that with one of these countries being Turkey, “American exporters are at a clear advantage over UK exporters”. Western government might want to beware, because it was hard to know who would be “the ultimate end user of the goods” in an arms deal. Interesting to hear an arms trader make this argument; it is usually heard from the peaceniks.

Bell pointed out that one of the countries covered by the US’s new, looser rules is Argentina. Uh oh. The MPs went a rather greeny-grey tinge. The tension was relieved only when Ann Clwyd’s mobile trilled into life at high volume with a Gangnam-style ringtone. Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley) didn’t know how to turn the device off and had to leave the room to take the call. Good to see the arms trade being scrutinised by such tech-savvy legislators.

The meeting was not just about multi-million pound weapon systems. The committee heard about the enthusiastic exporting of machetes, police whips, handcuffs and sjambok-style truncheons to troubled countries, where, presumably, democracy-hungry protestors can draw comfort from being gored, whacked and manacled by “goods” made in Blighty.

Surprise, surprise, the kingdom of GCHQ (and, er, the late News of the World) is also a world-leader in producing “anti-privacy equipment” as Stanley put it. Isbister flourished statistics about how arms licences to the Middle East recently have, er, rocketed and now form half our arms exports. Perhaps it is no wonder the government was so keen to life the arms embargo on Syria and why it has given “priority market” status to Libya, despite that country’s alarming political instability.

Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South) had unearthed statistics on gun exports. These included 24,000 assault rifles, 9,000 rifles, 1,000 “super rifles” and 3,000 “sporting guns” to places such as Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and the Maldives. I say, Jeeves: how is the grouse shooting in the Maldives this season?

These guns were exported without much paperwork because they were listed as being required for “anti-piracy” purposes. Gapes suggested that “some of these weapons might be diverted to othe5r purposes than anti-piracy”. Surely not! Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem, Gordon) said that some 40,000 firearms had been shipped from Britain under the anti-piracy label and wondered if “there is a danger a perfectly genuine concern about piracy could be a cover for getting more weapons” sold to foreign governments.

Oliver Sprague from Amnesty International was worried that such weapons were often sold to countries where there was not much “human rights training”. Human rights training? Perhaps that can become the next growth area for British exports.

With the Middle East now forming over half the market for British arms exports, this explains why David Cameron was so keen to boast about having sold ‘wonderful things’ to Saudi Arabia and places like it in his visit to the BAE plant in Wharton, Lancashire.

Demonstration Tomorrow Against The Security and Policing Trade Show 2016

March 8, 2016

There’s going to be a demonstration tomorrow against a police and security industry trade expo at 5 O’clock in the afternoon. There have already been posters put up across London, showing a woman holding a placard explaining that despite being an elected member of the London Assembly, the police deemed her such a threat that the spied on her for ten years.

Mike over at Vox Political has a piccie of the posters, and quotes the organisers of the demonstration on their reasons for calling it. They state:

“Behind closed doors, the Home Office is hosting a three day shopping spree. Governments, police forces and military delegations from around the world can buy all the necessary equipment to support violent militarised policing, aggressive border controls and oppressive surveillance operations.

“Organised far from London, it provides a “discreet environment” for hundreds of companies who want to “display products which would be too sensitive to show in a more open environment”. Companies such as Serco who make a fat profit from the inhumane detention of thousands of refugees in centres like Yarls Wood; or weapons companies like BAE systems whose business is dependent on human suffering and continuous wars.

“The heavy policing of borders, militarisation of police, increased surveillance of civilians and high military spending do not improve security and they do not make any of us safer. They make the world a more dangerous place and we need to resist all of it.”

(My emphasis).

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/08/want-to-know-why-these-posters-have-started-appearing-theydontmakeussafer/

The organisers have a home page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/712863342183693/

Not being a Londoner, I have no idea who the woman in the photograph is. All I can say is that she looks White, of mature years, and entirely ordinary. Which I believe is the point. She does not look as if she belongs to any suspect ethnic or religious group, though it would be an example of the Met’s racism if they had unfairly spied on a Black or Asian person for the past decade, simply because of their ethnicity; or if it was a gay man or woman.

These are the merchants of death, and the industrial beneficiaries of the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the increasing diminution of the circle of freedom Brits now enjoy. The explanation includes references to Yarls Wood detention centre. That was the place, if I recall correctly, that was hit by riots a few years ago due to the inhuman and brutal treatment the detainees received at the hands of SERCO. I believe one person may even have been killed by a SERCO guard, thus provoking the disturbances.

As for BAE, they were caught several times by Private Eye trying to sell electric batons and riot shields at arms expos to those lovely, entirely democratic countries in the Middle East, with excellent human rights laws like Saudi Arabia. Such weapons are illegal under international law. And if they’re prepared to sell them to the Gulf Arab states, you wonder if they’re also prepared to secretly sell them to the government, especially after they’ve contributed to handsomely to Tory coffers over the years. And Cameron returned the compliment when he visited their factory in Wharton, where he boasted how he had sold ‘wonderful things’ to the bloody despots of the Middle East.

This is the civilian end of the military-industrial complex, and like the military, they don’t promise peace, but more conflict, suffering and bloodshed. And they are a continuing threat to traditional British freedom.

Private Eye on the Companies Sponsoring the Tories in 2008

March 5, 2016

Private Eye in their issue for 5th-18th September 2008 printed this piece listing the companies sponsoring the Tory party conference that year.

Meet the Tories’ Brum Chums

The Conservative party conference will see Team Cameron entertaining a plethora of wealthy bedfellows from industry when it kicks off in Birmingham on 28th September …

The Arms trade…
Labour have been too embarrassed to be seen mixing with the weapons makers, but if shadow defence secretary Liam Fox becomes a real minister all that will change. Fox is timetabled to speak for the Defence Industries Council, an arms trade group led by BAE Systems chief executive Mike Turner.

Fox shares the enthusiasm of the “Vulcan” wing of the US Republicans for military reaction to perceived threats, reflected in the title of another meeting he is addressing on “Resurgent threats: Terror, Russia and Iran?” The meeting is sponsored by yet another arms firm, EADS, who hope to sell loads of kit to a future Tory government.

The Greens…
Cameron is fighting to make green a new Tory, colour, but it’s a very pale shade indeed. The Tory Green Initiative’s first meeting at the conference is paid for by the British Cement Association and has cement lobbyist Mike Gilbert on the platform. The link makes the TGI look more like an industry-friendly lobby group than an environmental campaign. Hardly surprising, as the Initiative is run by Nick Wood-Dow, the boss of lobbying firm Chelgate, which assists clients from the construction industry who have problems with “disproportionate response from the community, or from pressure or environmental groups.”

The Poor…
Shadow Treasury minister Mark Hoban is demonstrating the new Conservative interest in poverty with a meeting on the credit crunch, sponsored by Cattles plc, one of the Britain’s leading sub-prime lenders. Cattles makes millions through its “Shopacheck” loans to the low-paid that have APRS as high as 400 per cent.

The Lobbyists…
Last year Tory MP Peter Luff was outraged that the Canary Wharf Group gave £120,000 to Labour while promoting Crossrail, the line that will improve access to Canary Wharf. Boris Johnson also backs Crossrail, and Luff will presumably be horrified that the Canary Wharf Group is paying the London Assembly Conservatives. The group is funding a political “speed dating” lunch, where delegates can meet “the most influential people in London politics, from London Assembly members to deputy mayors.”

Elsewhere, shadow Treasury bod Mark Hoban is advertised as the top speaker at the “invitation-only financial services reception” of lobby firm Lansons, which makes a living from trying to influence politicians on behalf of big-money clients such as HBOS bank. It’s easy to see why Lansons has invited a shadow minister to their party, but harder to see why Hoban would accept.

The list of curious sponsors goes on: shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien is speaking on problem drinking – sponsored by brew SAB Miller. And Frances Maude, a key member of Team Cameron, is speaking on “Preparing for Power” – that to money from management consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

…and the Labour ex-ministers
Of course, the Tories aren’t the only one who know on which side their bread is buttered – three former Labour ministers will address the conference, getting in practice at sucking up to Cameron’s crew. Former trade minister Brian Wilson was once a left-wing MP and enthusiastic supporter of Castro’s Cuba; now he is chairman of the pro-airports lobby group FlyingMatters. Steven Twigg, the man once famous for defeating Portillo, and former Culture secretary Chris Smith complete the trio.

Those were the companies seeking to profit from the Tories gaining power that year. And looking at this, and the way Cameron very swiftly dropped his Green initiative when it appeared to have worked, it’s clear that this always was a sham. His Green Initiative was simply an astroturf organisation to get the Tories and their backers in the very un-Green cement industry back into No. 10. And since then, the Tories have dropped it completely. Cameron took down that windmill from his house, and has put his full support behind fracking, another industry which comprehensively wrecks the environment.

David Cameron is still firmly behind the arms industry. He was up at the BAE systems base the other week in Wharton, boasting about how he’d sold millions of their products to the war criminals and mass murderers in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t bothered, calling their armaments ‘brilliant things’.

And the hypocrisy and deceit behind their lobbying bill, which shuts out charities and other organisations from influencing government, while leaving the real lobbyists to pursue their sordid trade, should be no surprise given their appearance sponsoring so much of the Tory conference.

And then there’s the matter of the 95 Tory and Lib Dem ministers with links to health care companies, who are hoping to get rich from the privatisation of the NHS.