Local authorities investing over £700m in arms trade
Almost all local authorities in Britain hold investments in the world's largest weapons companies, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The figures show that they invest £723m in 15 of the largest international arms companies. This is more than double what local authorities spend on promoting local enterprise and new businesses across Britain, says the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Caat, which conducted the FoI exercise. It found that 67 of Britain's 99 council pension funds invest nearly £244m in BAE Systems, the UK's largest arms company. One in three council pension funds help to finance the manufacture of nuclear weapons through investments in Lockheed Martin, the world's largest arms company, according to Caat. It says they are investing £20m in Lockheed, which manufactures Trident nuclear missiles for the US and Britain and is a contractor at the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment, which produces and maintains the UK's nuclear warheads.
Of the 88 council funds which provided information, all but two invest in arms manufacture. Three in five councils invest in companies manufacturing cluster bombs or their components. General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon all produce cluster munitions or their components, according to Human Rights Watch.
The study found that 33 councils hold investments worth £33m in Halliburton, the US military services conglomerate whose subsidiaries in Iraq are embroiled in allegations of overpricing and faulty accounting. Halliburton denies the allegations .
Campaigners opposed to the arms trade say the study raises serious questions about the ethical values and democratic oversight of local authorities' investments, largely made without the consideration of voters and council employees.
Mike Kavanagh, who has been pressing Greater Manchester pension fund to invest ethically, said: "The study destroys the argument that such council investments are supporting vital British industry: we now know that UK councils invest indiscriminately, including over £120m invested in US arms companies."
He added: "Councils also argue that selling these shares would make their investments less profitable. Yet research by Deutsche Bank last year found that ethically invested funds actually outperformed most other funds."
Caat researcher Ian Prichard said: "We were surprised by the sheer scale of the arms company shareholdings revealed by our study. These investments are unnecessary from a financial point of view: the UK arms companies in our study make up less than 2% of the FTSE100 [index]. Public money deserves to support public goods, not missiles and warheads."
Details of the investments are on Caat's website, www.caat.org.uk.
Von: 8.5.2006 Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian