Britain's biggest arms dealer tells peace activists selling weapons 'encourages peace'

Sir Roger Carr says his belief that providing a 'big stick' helps countries bring about peace 'allows us to do this work in a proud and positive way, rather than with a sense of shame'

Matt Payton@paytesy89
Thursday 05 May 2016 13:27
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BAE systems earns around 40 per cent of its near-£8 billion revenue in America
BAE systems earns around 40 per cent of its near-£8 billion revenue in America

The chairman of Britain's biggest arms producers, BAE Systems, has told peace activists that selling weapons encourages peace, following questions about their deals with Saudi Arabia.

Sir Roger Carr spoke at the company's AGM where a number of shareholders questioned the morality of working so closely with the Middle Eastern country.

According to an United Nations report, Saudi Arabia is responsible for "widespread and systematic" air strikes on Yemeni civilians.

Responding to the peace activists at the meeting, Sir Roger said the Saudis were crucial allies and an appropriate customer for their products, Guardian reported.

"We are not here to judge the way that other governments work, we are here to do a job under the rules and regulations we are given," he said.

"We will stop doing it when they tell us to stop doing it."

When one attendee asserted that lasting peace could only be achieved through negotiation, Sir Roger replied: "There is, however, in the world in which we all live, the principle of speaking softly but carrying a big stick – and that very often encourages people to negotiate.

"We try and provide our people, our government, our allies with the very best weapons, the very best sticks they can have, to encourage peace."

He added that it was "our belief that what we are doing is in the interests of peace for the world, rather than simply as aggressors".

"We maintain peace by having the ability to make war and that has stood the test of time," he said.

"We are a defence company and I have tried to give you clearly and openly the rules under which we operate – not hide behind – and the belief that we have as individuals which allows us to do this work in a proud and positive way, rather than with a sense of shame."

Around 30 activists linked to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) had bought shares in BAE so they could attend the AGM.

Two activists were carried out at the beginning of the meeting for holding up posters.

Sir Roger reportedly lost his temper when one person said: "Your defence reminds me of the IG Farben defence at the Nuremberg tribunals."

The BAE chairman replied: "Can I just say to you, sir, how grossly offensive I find that and to every member sitting on this board."

Sir Roger Carr, BAE Systems Chairman since 2014 and BBC Trust Vice Chairman since 2015

Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, Allan Hogarth, told The Independent that BAE Systems was in denial of the actions of Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

“The deeply unpleasant reality is that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition could be using Sir Rogers’ ‘big stick’ to inflict terrible suffering on thousands of Yemeni civilians," he said.

“Sir Roger is hiding behind governmental ‘rules and regulations’ when the wisdom and lawfulness of the government’s policy over exporting arms to Saudi Arabia has been brought into question time and time again.

“The boss of BAE Systems may be in denial about the carnage that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is causing in Yemen, but BAE’s shareholders ought to be under no illusions whatsoever.

“BAE Systems should show some long overdue corporate responsibility by immediately suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.”

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