Outrage as arms firm sponsors St Paul's concert

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An Arms firm has paid pounds 15,000 to use a concert at St Paul's Cathedral for corporate hospitality to other defence contractors.

The agreement with Lockheed Martin, which produces stealth bombers, Trident submarines and armour-piercing explosive darts, has shocked mem- bers of the Church of England.

Canon Paul Oestreicher, author of The Church and the Bomb and a former chairman of Amnesty International, described it as "appalling". "It is deeply disturbing when a major Christian institution lends itself to defence and the arms business."

The deal to provide pounds 15,000 for a concert of Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, to be held as part of St Paul's tercentenary celebrations, was struck by Lockheed Martin Tactical Systems, a Portsmouth-based subsidiary, which is managing a helicopter project for the Royal Navy.

Its American chief executive Galen Ho confirmed that the concert would be used to entertain other defence contractors such as British Aerospace, GEC and Racal. "St Paul's was soliciting sponsorship and we had discussions with them. We'll use it as a corporate hospitality event," he said. "It is part of 'corporate citizenship' to fund such an event."

The concert on 8 July is part of a series of musical events to mark the tercentenary of the cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Brigadier Robert Acworth, the registrar of St Paul's, said cathedral staff had discussed the sponsorship, but did not find it unethical. "Lockheed Martin Tactical Systems are not selling arms to the Third World, after all," he said. "Ultimately we had no difficulty with accepting the sponsorship because we need it and we are delighted to get it."

The Reverend Canon John Halliburton, the senior cathedral clergyman who chaired the concert committee, said he did not recall any discussion. But, he said, "there have been arms since the bow and arrow. We regret war but we are not a pacifist cathedral. It is nothing to do with us if firms like this provoke war; that is up to them, although as far as I know they do not. There is a difference between supplying revolutionary governments and nations that need to defend themselves."

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which two years ago revealed extensive investments by the Church in arms companies, described the sponsorship as "an absolute disgrace". The campaign's Rachel Harford said yesterday: "St Paul's Cathedral because of its fame is the Church of England for many people. It's all very well for St Paul's to say that this particular subsidiary is not involved in the Third World, but Lockheed Martin is a giant and sells to the Middle East, a place of enormous tensions."

The Rev Sidney Hinkes, chairman of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, said he is writing to the Dean. "To have something as blatant as this when the public is moving against the arms trade is insensitive to say the least."

Lockheed Martin is the world's largest military supplier. The majority of its work is for the US government but it has also worked with Shorts of Belfast on missiles for Apache attack helicopters and supplies aircraft to Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Previous research by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade showed that around 90 churches and parishes, and a number of other Christian organisations, held millions of pounds worth of shares in companies making arms or defence equipment.