Church of England Farewell to Arms

Today Campaign Against Arms Trade has learnt that the Church of England has disinvested in GKN, a major arms export company with a record of sales to repressive regimes and developmentally needy countries. The Church has taken ‘ substantial review of the C of E’s investment in defence companies’. The Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group has outlined Defence Investment Policy Criteria completely excluding categories of weapons including military aircraft, helicopters, armoured vehicles, tanks (referred to as Level 1′); and also small arms, missiles, bombs, ordnance (‘Level 2).

Rachel Harford of CAAT welcomed the change of policy. We are very pleased that the Church of England has finally listened to the voices of those who have suffered from the arms trade over the years, and have chosen to effectively end their involvement in this lethal business.

Christina Parsons of the CAAT Christian Network added We have been pressing the Commissioners on this for so long. We believe the Church needs to take a powerful moral stand on the arms trade. The C of E’s decision today takes a huge step in this direction, and I congratulate those involved on their bold action. I am delighted.

GKN own 50% of the joint venture helicopter company Westland/Agusta, which is currently selling Super Lynx helicopters to Malaysia. They also own 30% of tank-makers Alvis. In 1997 GKN have sold armoured cars and water cannons to Indonesia through their GKN Defence wing, now part of Alvis. GKN Aerospace provide components for the Hawk jets such as those sold to Indonesia.

In recent years the Church Commissioners have progressively weakened their links to arms exporters, in response to pressure from CAAT and other organisations. In 1999 they sold shares they acquired in BAE Systems following the sale of GEC’s defence wing to British Aerospace now BAE Systems. The Commissioners received the BAE shares as they were investors in GEC. However up till now they have retained investment in GKN, on the grounds that only a minority of its sales are arms-related. This move substantially ends the Church of England’s investments in the arms trade. The Catholic Church in this country, and the central bodies of most Protestant denominations have already disinvested from arms companies.

The Church of England will still invest in companies which are non-offensive systems suppliers including avionics, radar, military equipment etc. (see Church of England Defence Investment Policy Criteria, Oct 2000).

CONTACT: RACHEL HARFORD 020 7281 0297/0958 449 006
/ SAM PERLO-FREEMAN 07930 543075

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