Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Attorney General should not be given the power to override UK law when dealing with enquiries into corruption

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A great decision by the High Court which has '...declared that the Government broke the law by cutting short a corruption investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals ...' - vital defence of the rule of law in fact (details here). We are in signifiicant trouble when those that advocate and propose new law (our Government) are also acting to undermine it! Excellent letter (copied below) from Prof Paul Dunne and Graham Davey, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Bristol Group, in yesterday's local paper, describing the issue really well:

Soapbox: BAE Systems Enquiry (Bristol Evening Post, 15 April, 08)

The decision of the High Court judges to declare unlawful the halting of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) enquiry into corruption charges against BAE Systems is clearly a triumph for common sense and the rule of law.

BAE Systems, a major local employer, has been under suspicion for many years of paying bribes to secure arms exports.

One of the arguments for stopping the enquiry was that the case would not succeed in court. In fact, the enquiry was about to gain important information about secret Swiss bank accounts, and this caused the Saudis to threaten to withhold information about potential terrorists unless the enquiry was immediately stopped.

This gave Tony Blair the excuse to cite "national security" for his intervention in the legal process, though it is more than likely that economic reasons were paramount - the possibility of the Saudis buying French aircraft, rather than the hugely expensive Eurofighter Typhoon that BAE Systems is involved in producing. This was despite the fact that in 1997, Britain had signed up to the OECD Anti-bribery Convention, article five of which specifically excludes national interest and economic considerations as justifying the termination of an enquiry.

Following the decision of Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan to assert that the Government is not above the law, the need now is to press for the SFO enquiry to be restarted. BAE Systems has given assurances of its full co-operation, and 125 MPs signed an Early Day Motion calling for the Saudi Arabian enquiry to be reinstated alongside the six other ongoing enquiries involving BAE.

Remarkably, the Government has now introduced draft legislation that would give the Attorney General authority to override UK law when dealing with enquiries into corruption. This must be resisted.

Excellent legal challenge by the Corner House NGO, and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, whose priorities are well worth supporting: end government subsidies and support for arms exports; end exports to oppressive regimes; end exports to countries involved in an armed conflict or region of tension; end exports to countries whose social welfare is threatened by military spending; support measures, both in the UK and internationally, which will regulate and reduce the arms trade and lead to its eventual end.

The public's concerns make the green case

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From the Green Party website, the following comments about the latest local election broadcast:

'...real people were invited to discuss their concerns, making a compelling argument for Green solutions for a more affordable and fairer society...'

Great broadcast!! Can be viewed here: . Take a look!!