Labour accepts £12m in donations and perks from defence contractors

IoS investigation: Government's 'ethical' policy in disarray as MPs enjoy hospitality from ordnance firms

Labour has accepted more than £12m in sponsorship for Government projects and political events from arms and defence companies since 1997, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Labour MPs, including the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr John Reid, have also accepted hospitality from such firms.

And links are strengthened by the appointment to Government quangos of senior executives from some of the companies involved.

The multi-million pound link has prompted concerns that a cosiness exists between Labour and the arms industry that threatens an ethical foreign policy, even where there is no impropriety.

Richard Bingley, of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: "No wonder the Government finds it so difficult to put an arms embargo on India and Pakistan when they receive donations and hold shares in arms companies. There seems to be an institutionalised connection between the Labour Government and senior figures in the arms production business.

"It means that other groups that might be putting across a different message to the Government are not getting a fair hearing."

Concerns over arms trading have been heightened in recent weeks because of the threat of conflict between India and Pakistan in their dispute over Kashmir. Plans by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Patricia Hewitt for a UK arms embargo to the two countries were quashed last week after Tony Blair used his personal authority to save a £1bn deal to sell Hawk fighter-bombers to the Indian Government.

The company involved in the deal is British Aerospace Systems (BAe), which is listed among companies who gave more than £5,000 in sponsorship to the Labour party in both 1998 and 2000, sponsored a ministerial question and answer session at the 1999 Labour party conference and paid £12m to sponsor the Mind Zone in the Millennium Dome.

The Labour party pension fund has 27,490 shares worth around £95,000 in BAe.

Sir Richard Evans, the chairman of BAe Systems, sits on the Government's Competitiveness Council. The former vice-chairman of BAe, Richard Lapthorne, was appointed by the Government in April 2000 to set up its Working Age Agency and Lord Hollick, a Labour peer and party donor, was a director of BAe from 1992-1997. BAe's chief operating officer Peter Gershon is paid £180,000 a year as the head of the Office of Government Commerce, set up in 2000.

In April, the Prime Minister, intervened personally in a BAe deal to promote the sale of 24 JAS-39 Gripen fighters to the Czech Republic, later defending his role as straightforward backing of British industry.

Other arms and defence companies linked to Labour include Raytheon Systems, who, according to Friends of the Earth, gave £30,000 to the Labour party in 1997, £15,000 for a pre-dinner drinks party at the Labour conference in 1998 and £12,500 for drinks at the London Hilton in 1997.

The US arms manufacturer was awarded a £800m contract by the Ministry of Defence for their Astor battlefield radar spyplane system in 1999.

David JB Brown, the managing director of Multidrive, a manufacturer of commercial and military vehicles based in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, donated more than £5,000 to the Labour party in 1999-2000.

Thomson-CSF Racal, an integrated defence company, gave more than £5,000 in sponsorship in 2000, as did the UK Defence Forum.

A number of Labour MPs have also listed perks from defence companies in the Register of Members' Interests. In January 2001 Cabinet Minister Dr John Reid took a courtesy helicopter, paid for by BAe Systems, from Stirling to their shipyard in Scotstoun, Glasgow. He then accepted a lift back from Glasgow to RAF Northolt in the chairman's private jet.

BAe Systems also paid for Labour backbencher David Borrow's return flights from Chester to Toulouse to visit Airbus Industrie, and his trip in June 1999 to the Paris Air Show. Fellow backbencher Roger Casale, a former policy advisor to John Prescott and Tony Blair, accepted travel and expenses for trips to Italy from defence company GKN, who also part-sponsored a trip to Rome for Labour backbencher Rachel Squire.

In June 1997, Raytheon Systems Ltd flew Labour MP Frank Cook to the Paris Air Show where Labour peer Lord (Barry) Jones was a guest of BAe Systems. MP Gordon Marsden's attendance at a conference on EU enlargement in 1998 was paid for by BAe.Labour peer Lord Gregson is the president of the Defence Manufacturers Association and Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, a special advisor to Jack Straw on policing, is its honorary vice-president.

A Labour party spokesman said: "A lot of these companies are diverse companies who are employing a lot of people in this country. It is totally proper that they should be able to make donations to politcal organisations."

But the links have further angered campaigners against the arms trade, who maintain that UK arms exports are still being used by oppressive regimes such as those in Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Angola and Zimbabwe.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before