Red Cross to review shares in arms firm

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The Independent Online
The British Red Cross owns shares in an arms manufacturer, in direct contravention of its ethical investment policy, it was revealed last night.

The 320 shares in Vickers, worth a total of pounds 867, owned by a regional branch of the British Red Cross has come as an embarrassment to the charity whose employees are famed for their heroism in war zones around the world.

Last night the charity announced that it was launching an investigation into the affair.

A spokeswoman said it was sifting through its various branches around the country to find out which one owned the shares. She said when the branch is identified, the charity will recommend it sells the shares immediately "because this does not fit in with our ethical policy of investment".

However, as the regional branches of the British Red Cross are autonomous, they do not have to obey the council's recommendation.

"We were told about this by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and when we looked into this we found that the shares are not held in our Common Investment Fund," the spokeswoman added.

The Common Investment Fund is overseen by the charity's governing council and makes a special effort to avoid unethical companies. The fund at present consists of holdings in 91 companies - a portfolio worth an estimated pounds 10m.

The shares were unearthed in an investigation by the pressure group, Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Its findings, published in today's Daily Mirror, claim several charities, including the Girl Guides Association, Great Ormond Street Leukaemia Fund, the St Bart's Hospital in London, and Battersea Dogs Home, invest in companies in the arms business.