One of the BBC’s best known radio show hosts and personalities, Jeremy Vine, joined over 40 MPs and hundreds of arms company reps at the ADS Dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London on Tuesday night.
The ADS is the trade body for UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industries and represents some of the 50 biggest arms companies in the world. The arms dealers enjoyed a £246 per head dinner with speeches from Business Secretary Vince Cable MP as well as Jeremy Vine. Among those who accepted invitations were:
- Tobias Elwood MP, a minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was sat at the Cobham table. Cobham is one of the 50 biggest arms companies in the world and has applied for military export licences to Israel, Saudi Arabia. UAE and Turkey.
- Margaret Curran MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland), invited by Raytheon. Raytheon has been linked to making bombs used in the assault on Gaza last summer. Margaret Curran’s press office has since said she did not attend, adding
We may at some point in the distant past have accidentally accepted the invitation.
- Vince Cable MP sat at the top table with Jeremy Vine, Vernon Coaker MP (Shadow Secretary for Defence) and the heads of the ADS.
Also present, with tables, were a number of arms companies, including:
- Thales: the 11th biggest in the world in terms of sales and has sold weapons to some of the world’s most oppressive governments. In 2010 it paid a fine of €630m over bribes to win a contract to sell frigates to Taiwan.
- BAE Systems, which hosted 5 MPs, is Europe’s biggest arms company and has supplied weapons to many of the world’s most repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Mubarak’s Egypt.
- MBDA: This missile company is part-owned (37.5%) by BAE. It sold weaponry to the Gaddafi regime in 2007 and its missiles were extensively used by the UK and French military in the 2011 bombing of Libya and also supplied to rebel forces.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has been provided with a copy of the final guest list and seating plan showing the parliamentarians who accepted invitations.
The evening began with an unexpected speech from an anti arms-trade campaigner who managed to get in to the event.
Also present was former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon who is now the
Head of Government Affairs at AgustaWestland, after having given them a £1.7 billion contract while in office, over 30 civil servants and over 30 Ministry of Defence military personnel.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:
The BBC is meant to stand for freedom of speech and high quality journalism, yet one of its best known personalities was speaking to a room full of arms dealers who profit from repression around the world.
It’s outrageous that the government actively supports and promotes this deadly trade. The fact that arms dealers were swilling champagne with over 40 MPs is a disgrace and shows the extent of the arms trade’s connections and political lobbying.