Campaigners anger after Hackney council’s multi-million pound arms investment revealed

Cllr Matt Hanley is at the forefront of the campaign

Cllr Matt Hanley is at the forefront of the campaign Photo: Matt Hanley

A campaign has been launched to persuade Hackney Council to disinvest from BAE Systems, the world’s second largest arms manufacturer.

Hackney Green Party and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament are now campaigning to force the withdrawal of the council’s £5 million pound investment in BAE Systems, the world’s second largest arms manufacturer.

Using a Freedom of Information request,  Campaign Against Arms Trade  established that Hackney Council, through its pensions investment scheme, has over £11 million invested in a total of 17 known arms manufacturers.

The co-ordinator of the new campaign, Matt Hanley of Hackney Green Party, said: “Hackney Council invests more of its pension fund in the arms trade than any other borough council in London, by quite a margin. This is both morally and ethically bankrupt, as it makes the residents of Hackney complicit in funding war.”

CAAT welcomed the move. A spokeswoman said: “The arms trade largely produces wasteful and socially useless goods, supports arms sales to undemocratic and repressive governments, and fuels conflict worldwide. Hackney Council should do the right thing and start disinvesting now.”

BAE Systems manufactures fighter aircraft, warships, tanks, missiles and other military hardware and is under investigation in a number of countries. In December 2006, the Serious Fraud Office dropped its corruption investigation into BAE Systems’ Saudi arms deals following pressure from BAE Systems and the Saudi regime.

However, investigations into the Saudi deals continue in both the US and Switzerland. In addition, the SFO and similar agencies in other countries continue to investigate other BAE Systems deals, including sales to Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Tanzania.

Last month, the SFO stated that it “intends to seek the Attorney General’s consent to prosecute BAE Systems for offences relating to overseas corruption” and is currently preparing papers to submit to the Attorney General.

Pat Allen, chair of Hackney CND, said: “Hackney electors have no wish to invest in this sordid industry. The council needs to listen to public opinion and switch to ethical investment with no further excuses.”

A council spokesman said: “The fund’s Statement of Investment Principles is currently being reviewed, while the committee encourages fund managers to favour socially responsible investment but only where performance is similar to that of other companies.”

The disinvestment campaign is described as being “cross-party and multi faith” and includes signatories as diverse as trade unionists, Jewish socialists and Anglican vicars. David Holland, chair of the Labour Representation Committee – a Labour Party pressure group – is also a signatory.

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