SCORES OF local councils claiming to have “ethical” investment policies own shares in Britain’s leading arms export companies. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) has uncovered the roll of shame after a study of company documents, and published its findings last week.
The report looked at share ownership in Britain’s seven biggest arms exporting companies. They are BAE Systems, Alvis, Cobham, GKN, Rolls-Royce, Smiths and VT. Weapons and equipment made by these firms are being used by armies across the world, including in Iraq today. Among the councils with major shareholdings in these arms firms are Derbyshire, Essex, Greater Manchester, Kent and Lancashire.
Many London boroughs also have major shareholdings in the arms firms including Barnet, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets. Local councils invest money from their pension funds in firms. Most claim they do so on an “ethical basis”. “It is staggering that organisations committed to public welfare and health continue to hold shares in arms companies that sell weapons across the world,” says Ian Prichard of CAAT.
Trade unionists and campaigners may want to check their council’s record.
IN THIS WEEK
PRIME minister James Callaghan announced that the Labour government would deliver three frigates to the Chilean dictator General Pinochet, who had seized power in a bloody coup seven months earlier.
In opposition Labour had pledged to prevent “all sales of arms” from Britain to Chile. But after coming to office in the February 1974 election Labour ditched that pledge and decided to go ahead with the £70 million frigate deal made by the previous Tory government.
The opposition Tories cheered when Callaghan announced that Labour would ensure Pinochet got his warships.
THE BBC is deliberately pushing right wing anti-immigrant views on its flagship programmes, according to an article in the Financial Times last week. It reported how the BBC had talked to “one potential participant” in a Newsnight discussion on immigration.
The person “happily accepted the programme’s invitation to appear and was asked for an outline of what he might say. “Shortly afterwards came an embarrassed phone call. ‘Your line is far too reasonable,’ said the BBC apparatchik. They were looking for stronger stuff.”
POLICE CARS were involved in over 100 crashes last year just in the London borough of Barking & Dagenham. The stunning figure, which works out at a police car smash in the borough every three days, came in an official written answer that was given in parliament last week.
Here’s an idea for whoever is elected London mayor on 10 June. Ban police cars from our roads in the interests of safety.
STANDARD Life insurance company boss Sandy Crombie is a master of sensitive timing. Last week he told 880 Edinburgh staff that they faced the sack due to cutbacks and hard times at the firm. The very same week Crombie, whose basic salary is £603,000 a year, took delivery of a brand new £65,000 Porsche Carrera.
NO ONE should feel any sympathy for the fat cats booted out of control of the Eurotunnel by a “shareholders’ revolt” last week. But the man who led the revolt is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Nicolas Miguet proclaims himself the champion of the taxpayer and small investor.
He is less keen to publicise that he is a convicted fraudster who has served a jail term, with strong links to the far right and France’s National Front. Miguet is leader of the tiny RPC (Rally of French Taxpayers) party. He was for many years a regular feature at the annual “Red, White and Blue” festival of Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, where he sought to set himself up as an economics guru.
Le Pen himself praised Miguet’s economic policies-which consist of cutting taxes on business and the middle class-as “modern and popular” and “good sense”. Miguet’s huge ego meant he eventually fell out with the National Front and now stands under his own banner. But his policies on issues such as immigration and law and order remain indistinguishable from Le Pen’s.
RODRIGO RATO has been hotly tipped as the next head of the International Monetary Fund, the bosses’ organisation responsible for wrecking developing economies in the name of the “free market”. Chancellor Gordon Brown was tipped for a shoe-in for the job but would prefer to move next door to 10 Downing Street. He has now thrown his weight behind Rato. Brown’s support is not matched by any from people in Spain though. Rato has just been unceremoniously booted out of office.
He was finance minister in the right wing Popular Party government of Jose Maria Aznar, which was crushed in the recent general election. Apart from his very right wing general politics, he also has some dodgy economic credentials.
In 2001 he was implicated in a huge financial scandal in Spain. When the Gescartera finance company collapsed some £68 million was discovered to have “disappeared”. A key figure was jailed and links between Gescatera and top Popular Party politicians came to light. A junior minister was forced to resign and Rato faced calls for his resignation too.
Figure it out
The profits made in the last year by the super-rich “Names” at Lloyds of London. A few years back the media was full of stories about how the rich who play on the insurance market were losing out.
“The fall of Baghdad and the ousting of Saddam Hussein mark a spectacular victory for American and British forces.”
STEPHEN GLOVER, Daily Mail columnist 11 April 2003
“Is it not clear that things are going from bad to worse in Iraq?”
STEPHEN GLOVER, 6 April 2004
“I was extremely sceptical about the war.”
STEPHEN GLOVER, 9 April 2004
“Being against this war when British soldiers are dying seems cheap, grubby and inappropriate.”
TONY PARSONS, Daily Mirror columnist 24 March 2003
“The whole sorry mess looks like a bloody disaster.”
TONY PARSONS, 9 April 2004
“In Fallujah the Americans who, in many ways, have acted with extraordinary restraint, have delivered a myth gift-wrapped to many Iraqis.”
DAVID AARONOVITCH, Guardian columnist
“Columnists like Aaronovitch said we had to drop bombs on Iraq because we couldn’t sit around and do nothing. He is a newspaper columnist. Sitting around and doing nothing is exactly what he does. He wanted thousands to die to make him feel better.”
JEREMY HARDY, comedian and activist
The US defence department announced last week that a satellite positioning device had been found in an Afghan cave. They said the equipment was lost in Somalia in 1993. The discovery, they proclaimed, was concrete evidence at last that Bin Laden's Al Qaida network was behind the deaths of 18 US soldiers in the disastrous raid on Mogadishu.