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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform