Tony Blair cancelled an investigation into BAE providing £600 million in bribes for Saudi Arabia.
The massive Al Yamamah deals were signed in 1985 and 1988. They revolved around the sale of Tornado fighters and ground-attack aircraft, to be paid for in a convoluted oil barter arrangement.
The deals have continued over the intervening two decades. BAE says the package has netted the company over £40 billion.
At the heart of deal was Saudi Prince Bandar. He met Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell at Downing Street in 2006, demanding an end to the corruption enquiry. Blair complied.
Robin Cook, Labour foreign secretary between 1997 and 2001, said, “I never knew Number 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to BAE.”
Jack Straw, MP for Blackburn, has been BAE’s most consistent supporter. He escorted Condoleezza Rice around a BAE arms factory in north west England in 2006.
Straw’s links with BAE include Labour peer Lord Taylor of Blackburn, who admitted trying to change legislation for cash. He was a highly paid “consultant” to BAE for more than a decade.
BAE has immense lobbying power in Whitehall. The Ministry of Defence has given security passes to 38 BAE employees, giving them free access to come and go from ministry headquarters.
Last week it emerged that the UK Defence Forum – which represents BAE Systems, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin – held 22 events in the Houses of Parliament.
And there is a long list of peers and former ministers, both Labour and Tory, who have ended up on the boards of arms companies.