Here are statements from Corner House and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade on today’s deeply shocking judgement by the Law Lords:
The Law Lords have this morning upheld an appeal by the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) against the High Court’s ruling that he acted unlawfully in terminating a corruption investigation into BAE Systems’ arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
The appeal followed a High Court judgment in April that the SFO, acting on government advice, had dropped the investigation following lobbying by BAE and a threat from Saudi Arabia to withdraw diplomatic and intelligence co-operation if the investigation were not dropped. This judgment was in response to a judicial review brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House.
Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House said:
“Now we know where we are. Under UK law, a supposedly independent prosecutor can do nothing to resist a threat made by someone abroad if the UK government claims that the threat endangers national security. The unscrupulous who have friends in high places overseas willing to make such threats now have a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card ?” and there is nothing the public can do to hold the government to account if it abuses its national security powers. Parliament needs urgently to plug this gaping hole in the law and in the constitutional checks and balances dealing with national security. With the law as it is, a government can simply invoke ‘national security’ to drive a coach and horses through international anti-bribery legislation, as the UK government has done, to stop corruption investigations.”
Symon Hill of CAAT said:
“BAE and the government will be quickly disappointed if they think that this ruling will bring an end to public criticism. Throughout this case we have been overwhelmed with support from people in all walks of life. There has been a sharp rise in opposition to BAE’s influence in the corridors of power. Fewer people are now taken in by exaggerated claims about British jobs dependent on the arms trade. The government has been judged in the court of public opinion. The public know that Britain will be a better place when BAE is no longer calling the shots.”
CAAT and The Corner House will issue a more detailed statement following an analysis of the Lords’ judgments.