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Tony Blair and BAE Systems

John Simkin

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Is it possible that BAE is to Tony Blair what General Dynamics, Brown & Root, Halliburton and Bell Corporation were to Lyndon Baines Johnson? LBJ paid back his financial backers with the Vietnam War. Is it possible that Blair and Bush are repaying their supporters with the Iraq War. We all know about Bush's relationship with Halliburton. What about Blair's relationship with BAE Systems? After all, this is the British company that has made the most money from the Iraq War.

Here is an account of Blair’s relationship with BAE that appeared on the Campaign Against Arms Trade website:


BAE Systems has a turbulent relationship with the MoD and has faced accusations of heavy-handed lobbying tactics and poor project management. However, whatever its problem with the Ministry and its civil servants, BAE Systems can always rely on Tony Blair.

Ever since Blair arrived in government in 1997 it has been apparent that he has supported BAE Systems against all comers and all rational argument. He pushed through controversial sales to Zimbabwe and Tanzania and lobbied, amongst others, the South Korean and South African Presidents on behalf of BAE Systems.

Striking confirmation of the relationship was provided by Robin Cook in his book 'The Point of Departure'. He states 'In my time I came to learn that the Chairman of British Aerospace appeared to have the key to the garden door to Number 10. Certainly I never once knew Number 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to British Aerospace'.

The extent to which Blair's love of BAE Systems permeates the UK government isn't entirely clear, but it is clear that BAE Systems receives 5-star treatment from a wide variety of official sources:

• minister after minister trooped out to promote the sale of the Hawk aircraft to India, regardless of the level of conflict over Kashmir.

• corruption allegations, reported to the government, have not been fully investigated.

• changes to guidelines have weakened arms export controls in areas relevant to BAE Systems, most obviously those announced in July 2002 which facilitated the transfer of the company's equipment to Israel via the US.

• the DSEi and Farnborough arms fairs receive financial assistance and ministerial support.

• the Defence Export Services Organisation continues to dedicate 600 civil servants to the arms trade under the leadership of an arms industry boss, currently seconded from BAE Systems.

• there is a proliferation of 'advisory bodies' which give the major arms companies preferential access to civil servants and ministers.

• a new Missile Defence Centre has appeared for no apparent reason other than to help UK companies win US 'Son of Star Wars' contracts, with BAE Systems as the lead contractor.

• and to bring things right up to date, just last month Prince Andrew and the UK's Ambassador to Bahrain opened BAE Systems' first office in Bahrain.

The reason for Blair's affection for BAE Systems isn't immediately obvious. It's often assumed that UK jobs lie at the heart of his interest but BAE Systems' record on that score is poor. In 2003 it stated that it would make 470 workers at its Hull Brough plant redundant if it didn't receive a contract from the MoD for Hawk jets. BAE Systems was duly given the contract even though the Treasury said an open competition would save the taxpayer £1 billion (£2 million for each of the 470 jobs!). In April 2004, less than a year on, BAE Systems announced the loss of 760 jobs and the following week a further 1,000 jobs. There has been little outcry. Jobs appear only to be important when BAE Systems wants to win a contract.

Tony Blair is fully aware of this so we need to look elsewhere to understand his enthusiasm for the company. The most likely explanation revolves around Blair's fondness for big business generally and his zeal for the grand foreign policy/military statement. BAE Systems brings these together in one entity and seems to hit all the right buttons.

BAE Systems continues to receive more than its fair share of corruption allegations. And, despite the unwillingness of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the MoD to investigate, they won't go away.

In September 2003, the Guardian published details of its investigation into allegations of a £20m 'slush fund' set up by BAE Systems to bribe Saudi officials. It reported that a confidential letter from the head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to the MoD alleged a possible fraud operation involving BAE Systems in relation to the massive Al Yamamah arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Neither the SFO nor MoD pursued the allegations despite being provided with a box of relevant invoices and other documents by a former employee of BAE Systems' front company.

Earlier allegations that BAE paid £7m commission into a Jersey trust for Qatar's foreign minister also ended with a failure to investigate. This, despite the SFO being asked for help by the Jersey authorities, and the UK Government admitting that it had a report of this commission payment in 1998.

Other allegations have been met with an alternative official response, if a similar end result. In June 2003 the Guardian alleged that 'BAE Systems paid millions of pounds in secret commissions' to win a South African Hawk jet contract. Astonishingly, it stated that the UK government had confirmed the payment but refused to reveal the amount paid. The DTI did, however, say it was 'within acceptable limits'!

There have been other allegations relating to the Czech Republic and India, but none of the allegations draw much of a reaction from BAE Systems. The company has a standard response of ignoring specific allegations and offering a variation on the theme, 'BAE operates rigorously within the laws of both the UK and countries in which it operates.' BAE Systems is certainly careful regarding corrupt practices, but the suspicion must be that it is careful to hide them rather than shun them. The Guardian recently reported that in 1997 BAE moved 'filing cabinets full of evidence of corrupt payments to foreign politicians to a vault in Switzerland' using a subsidiary registered in the Virgin Islands.

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Over the last few years the Serious Fraud Office have been investigating BAE Systems. Barry George, acted as BAE’s agent during the government sale of two British frigates to Romania. Apparently, BAE paid Barry George over £7m in commission for this deal.

The deal was arranged in 2003 by William Bach, the government’s arms sales minister. Ironically, Tony Blair has been lecturing Romania on tackling corruption before being accepted into the EU. Obviously, he does not think they are sophisticated enough in their corruption. Maybe he will have to give them advice on this.

BAE Systems have a long record of corruption. Last year, it was alleged in Chile that BAE had paid more than £1m to intermediaries linked to ex-president Pinochet in return for arms deals.

In 1996 a secret £7m payment from BAE to the foreign minister from BAE to the foreign minister of Qatar was discovered in a Jersey account after an arms deal to the state.

In 2003 a whistleblower alleged that a £60m slush fund was being used by BAE to provide presents to the head of procurement for the Saudi air force.

Is it possible that BAE have been involved in providing money to Tony Blair?

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Peter Henry Goldsmith, a prosperous lawyer, who gave money to Tony Blair’s New Labour Project. In 1999 he was rewarded when Blair gave him a peerage. An early example of “cash for honours”.

In June, 2001, Blair appointed him as his Attorney General. In this post it become his responsibility to argue the case for the legality of the invasion of Iraq. Blair refused to make the advice public. Lord Goldsmith's original memo, written on March 7, 2003, was eventually leaked to the press, which led to its official publication on 28 April 2005. In the memo, Lord Goldsmith discusses whether the use of force in Iraq could be legally justified by Iraq's 'material breach', as established in UN Security Council Resolution 1441, of its ceasefire obligations as imposed by Security Council Resolution 687 at the end of the First Gulf War. Lord Goldsmith concludes that 'a reasonable case can be made that resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation [of the use of force] in [Resolution] 678 without a further resolution.' However, Lord Goldsmith did concede that 'a court might well conclude that [operative paragraphs] 4 and 12 do require a further Council decision in order to revive the authorisation.'

In his final advice to the Government, written on March 17th 2003, Lord Goldsmith stated that the use of force in Iraq was lawful. This advice stated Lord Goldsmith's preferred view in more unequivocal terms than his earlier memo, without reference to the doubts expressed therein. This has led to allegations that Lord Goldsmith succumbed to political pressure to find legal justification for the use of force against Iraq. Shortly after the leak Lord Goldsmith released a statement in response to such allegations, saying that the two documents were consistent, pointing to the difference in the nature of the two documents and the firm assurances he had received between 7th and 17th March that Iraq was indeed in breach of its obligations under Security Council resolutions.

The controversy was furthered by the resignation of Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office, on 20 March 2003. A full version of her letter of resignation became public in March 2005. In this she stated that the reason for her resignation was that she did not agree with the official opinion that the use of force in Iraq was legal. She also accused Lord Goldsmith of changing his view on the matter. This is now the man who will decide if Blair faces prosecution for the "cash for honours" scandal or for BEA Systems bungs.

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In November, 2006, Blair argued that Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system should be renewed before he is ousted from power. Some reports suggest the system will cost in the region of £79bn. Gordon Brown has already made a speech where he has argued he is in favour of renewing Trident, although it will clearly break the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

Article VI of the NPT states that each of the parties to the treaty should undertake to pursue "negotiations in good faith on effective measures" relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament. In 2005, Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin stated their opinion that the replacement of Trident is likely to constitute a material breach of Article VI. "The linkage between the principles of non-proliferation and the obligation to negotiate towards disarmament ... indicate that Article VI is a provision 'essential to the accomplishment of the object or purpose of the treaty'.

Last week the Ministry of Defence secured a £1.7bn increase in its budget. Currently we are spending £32bn a year on defence. This is in cash terms, the second biggest defence allocation in the world.

It is not made clear why we need the latest attack submarines or anti-tank weapons. Who are we pointing our nuclear weapons at? We used to be told it was the Soviet Union who wanted to invade us. Since the fall of communism they are only interested in killing its political opponents on the streets of London. What we do know is that our current enemy is extremely to reluctant to use conventional tactics on the battlefield. Nuclear missiles and the Eurofighter is not very good at dealing with terrorists.

The Ministry of Defence agrees with this assessment. In a white paper published in 2003 it stated: "there are currently no major conventional military threats to the UK or NATO ... it is now clear that we no longer need to retain a capability against the re-emergence of a direct conventional strategic threat".

A leaked NATO policy document concedes that "large-scale conventional aggression against the alliance will be highly unlikely". As George Monbiot pointed out in yesterday’s Guardian: “No country that is capable of attacking NATO countries is willing to do so. No country that is willing is capable. Submarines, destroyers, Eurofighters and anti-tank rounds are of precious little use against people who plant bombs on trains.”

Who is making money from this obscene arms trade? The main beneficiary is BAE Systems. In his book Blair’s Wars, John Kampfner records that “from his first day in office Blair was eager not to antagonise British arms companies, and BAE Systems in particular, which developed extremely close relationships with senior figures in Downing Street.” A Downing Street aide told Kampfner that whenever the head of BAE encountered a problem, “he’d be straight on the phone to No 10 and it would be sorted”.

BAE Systems latest problem concerns the Serious Fraud Office’s three year investigations into allegations that illegal commissions into allegations that illegal commissions may have been paid to Saudi royals by BAE Systems. The SOF is also looking at arms deals between BAE and General Augusto Pinochet.

Both these deals date back to Margaret Thatcher’s time in government (her son was also involved in these deals). This helps to explain why Thatcher was so keen on helping Pinochet stay in office and from being tried in court for crimes against humanity.

What has this to do with Tony Blair? Maybe he is keen for these arms dealers to pay off the Labour Party debts (£17 million needs to be paid back during the next 12 months).

BAE is apparently claiming that the Saudis are threatening to pull-out of a £6 billion contract to provide 72 Eurofighter Typhoons and give it to the French if Blair does not call off the SFO.

The Guardian revealed on November 6th, 2006, that secret payments of millions of pounds from BEA has been found in Swiss accounts linked to Wafic Said, a billionaire arms broker for the Saudi Royal family. Apparently, Said is a close friend of Peter Mandleson. Now, there is a man that Blair finds difficult to refuse a favour.

BAE Systems is not only a corrupt company, it is also very inefficient (these two things often go together). In December, 2006, the National Audit Office disclosed that the five major domestic weapons projects experiencing the greatest cost overruns and the six most delayed projects were all managed by BAE Systems. The overspend for these projects is nearly £3bn and the delay 25 years.

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In the first week of December, 2006, Lord Goldsmith said he had no intention of interfering with the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the BAE-Saudi Arabia contract. A week later Goldsmith said the Serious Fraud Office was "discontinuing" its investigation into Britain's biggest defence company, BAE Systems. its corruption inquiry into a £6bn fighter planes deal with Saudi Arabia. The reason given was one of "national security".

It later become clear that the reason Goldsmith changed his mind was because he came under pressure from Tony Blair to drop the case. Blair admitted this in a television interview. He justified the decision on the grounds of national security. Allegedly the Saudi government had threatened Blair that they would withdraw help on the war on terror if the investigation continued. (It is also claimed that the Saudis have threatened Bush that if he withdraws troops from Iraq they will provide help to the Sunni Muslims.)

In other words, the prime minister has broken an important aspect of the British Constitution. That is: “the rule of law requires that the executive does not intervene in the operation of the course of justice”.

SFO investigators have discovered that BAE Systems has a £1 billion slush fund. The issue is not about bribes being paid to members of the Saudi royal family. It is about this money finding its way back to politicians. We now know how New Labour is going to solve its problems of its £17m debt. It will be paid off by BAE Systems and the Saudis. Not directly of course but via someone like Lord Sainsbury.

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What triggered off these events? If we know this, we can work out why Lord Goldsmith had to change his mind about his decision not to interfere in the SFO’s investigation. It was a decision taken in Switzerland that caused this action. The Swiss authorities decided to give the SFO access to BAE’s offshore banking transactions with Saudi middlemen. The normally highly-secret bank records were handed over to the SFO. Details of these accounts were leaked to the Sunday Times. The report then appeared in the newspaper. One would have assumed that this news would be followed by a decline in BAE’s share-price. In fact, the opposite happened - the share-price went up. People in the know, realized that this news would mean that Tony Blair would stop the investigation. One of the things that Blair is guilty of is insider dealing.

Blair knew that once the SFO had access to these bank accounts, they would be able to trace the money back to BAE executives and their political lapdogs. Lord Goldsmith ordered a meeting with Helen Garlick and her team of SFO officers. After they presented their considerable evidence on the case, Goldsmith ordered them to bring the inquiry to an end.

The problem for Blair and Goldsmith is the reason for this decision. The reason for this is that Britain is a signatory to the OECD’s anti-bribery convention. Article 5 of the convention precludes “taking into account considerations of the national economic interest or the potential effect upon relations with another state”. Therefore, Blair and Goldsmith were forced to give the excuse that the investigation was being called off for reasons of “national security”. This enables them to say they cannot go into any more detail as this would itself “endanger national security”.

Once again, as with the invasion of Iraq, Blair is hiding behind national security in order to cover-up his illegal actions. Everybody can see this, and anybody with even a brief understanding of the subject, knows that Blair is a corrupt politician who is willing to lie to all and sundry in order to hold onto power.

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In his autobiography, written before his early death, Robin Cook wrote: “I came to learn that the chairman of BAE (Sir Dick Evans) appeared to have the key to the garden door to No. 10. Certainly I never knew No 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to BAE.”

In his diary Cook remarks on how in December, 2001, Tony Blair lobbied very strongly for a BAE arms deal involving a military radar system with the government in Tanzania. So did the MOD. Cook pointed out that Clare Short (Overseas Development) seemed to think that the deal was corrupt: “Clare… reads all the telegrams and knows what is happening.”

Blair put Jack Straw (Foreign Secretary) and Patricia Hewitt (DTI) under pressure to agree the deal. Only Gordon Brown joined Cook and Short in arguing against the deal.

The contract was worth $40m. Short argued that the system was overpriced and unnecessary. She also pointed out that Tanzania was one of the world’s poorest countries and could not afford to spend money on this system.

The Guardian disclosed today that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has discovered a secret Swiss bank account owned by BAE Systems. Sailesh Vithlani, a Tanzanian middle-man has confessed that BAE paid $12m in commission via this account. He claims that he made no disbursements from this account to public officials “in Tanzania”. It is not known who this money went to other than it was to people living outside of Tanzania.

Short is quoted in the Guardian today as saying that Blair was “personally responsible for forcing the licence for the Tanzania deal through the cabinet. No 10 insisted on letting this go ahead, when it stank. It was always obvious that this useless project was corrupt.”

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The Serious Fraud Office is also looking at a BAE Systems contracts with the South African government. BAE created an offshore front company, Red Diamond. It also established a highly secret unit within BAE called HQ Marketing. Between 2000 and 2005, South African agents received over £70m through Red Diamond and over £6m and through HQ Marketing. Four senior BAE executives are being investigated, including former chairman, Sir Dick Evans, its chief executive, Mike Turner, its marketing director, Mike Rouse and Julia Aldridge, also from the marketing department.

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On Thursday the Blair government was severely criticised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for its decision to terminate the Serious Fraud Office’s inquiry into allegations that BAE paid bribes to Saudi royals. Representatives from 35 countries expressed “serious concerns” about the behaviour of Tony Blair. Britain has been given two months to provide further explanations before the OECD decides what to do about the matter.

Officials from America and France are especially upset because their countries have been trying to enforce OECD’s anti-bribery policies. In doing so, they have been losing contracts to Britain.

A more important development is the admission from Sir John Scarlett, the head of M16, that he never possessed intelligence that Saudi Arabia planned to cut security links with Britain over the BAE Systems investigation. Once again, Blair has been caught lying about what he was told by the intelligence services. As these are “state secrets” Blair assumes he can lie about these matters without getting caught. As with WMD in Iraq, the truth sometimes emerges and Blair is exposed for being a xxxx.

Blair has had a fairly easy ride so far in the UK over this issue. Blair is being portrayed as being someone willing to lie and break the law in order to obtain jobs at BAE Systems for the British people. In today's world this appears to be morally acceptable. However, that is not the real issue. The termination of the SFO investigation is not to protect corrupt Saudi officials, but to protect BAE executives. The investigation into BAE’s Swiss bank accounts shows that a large amount of this slush fund has arrived back into Britain. Some of this could have gone to people working for BAE. An interesting question is what happened after that. Did it go to the people who gave the deal government approval? Did it go to the people who have tried to cover-up the corruption at BAE? If so, that money would have found its way to Tony Blair and the Labour Party. Is it BAE that has really been providing donations and loans to the Labour Party?

We know from the investigations into the BAE deals with Saudi Arabia, Tanzania and South Africa, that the company uses front organizations to pay the bribes. Has BAE been using the same system to provide money to the Labour Party? Does this explain the confusion of Lord Sainsbury when he could not remember paying large sums to the party? It is also necessary to keep a close watch on Blair after he leaves office. It will be necessary for journalists to investigate who is really paying for Blair’s lucrative lecture tours in the United States. They should also take a close look into the financial accounts of Cherrie Blair.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Report on the BBC website this morning:


The UK sold a "useless" air traffic control system to Tanzania in 2001 in a "scandalous" and "squalid" deal, the House of Commons has been told.

Ex-International Development Secretary Claire Short joined the Tories in accusing Tony Blair of pushing through the £28m sale by BAE Systems.

Ministers said the deal had not damaged Tanzania's economy or its development.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is currently investigating claims that BAE bribed Tanzanian officials.

Ms Short, who is now an independent MP, has consistently argued Tanzania could have paid much less for the same equipment.

"I believe that all the parties involved in this deal should be deeply ashamed," she said in a Commons debate on Tuesday night.

She said the deal was "useless and hostile to the interests of Tanzania" and had been opposed by senior cabinet members including Chancellor Gordon Brown.

She said Barclays Bank had "colluded" with the government by loaning Tanzania the money, but lying to the World Bank about the type and size of the loan.

Lynne Featherstone, of the Liberal Democrats, said Britain had to be "squeaky clean" if it wanted to "retain any influence, reputation or credibility in world affairs".

"Somewhere between the government, BAE and Barclays - and perhaps all three - our reputation worldwide is in tatters," she said.

Shadow international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said BAE had used "ageing technology" and said the system was "not adequate and too expensive".

Mr Mitchell said the deal had "all the warning signs of impropriety - a vastly inflated price, an unsuitable product and unorthodox financing".

"Despite the opposition of all the most informed, respected and qualified observers approval for the licences was forced through a divided cabinet by the prime minister."

He called on his opposite number, Hilary Benn, to explain the government's "profoundly unattractive" conduct.

Mr Benn said the government had considered whether "the export would seriously undermine the economy or seriously harm the sustainable development of the recipient country".

"The government at the time judged it would not and, looking back from this vantage point, it would be hard to argue that it did."

He said he could not comment on bribery allegations because they were under investigation.

Officials from the SFO have already visited Tanzania to look into claims BAE gave bribes to ensure the deal would go through.

BAE says it is co-operating fully with the inquiry, but has strongly denied operating a secret slush fund to sweeten deals.

The SFO recently decided to drop a long-running BAE corruption probe into a huge arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Reports said the Saudis had threatened to pull out of a new BAE deal unless the probe was brought to an end.

Opposition politicians accused the government of putting cash before principle.

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It has been reported today that it was Tony Blair who insisted that the charges against BAE Systems be dropped. There was an interesting article by Lord Lester about the activities of Blair and Lord Goldsmith.


Thursday February 1, 2007

The Guardian

When Peter Goldsmith became attorney general five years ago, I tried to convince him that his office should become less political and more constitutionally independent, as is the case in numerous other democracies. I suggested that this would enhance his role as the senior legal adviser to government and, occasionally, to parliament, and as legal guardian of the public interest in criminal and civil matters. I did so in part because my experience as special adviser to the home secretary, Roy Jenkins, in Harold Wilson's second administration had convinced me that the attorney general - like the lord chancellor before the Constitutional Reform Act - wore too many hats. I had seen at first hand the powerful political pressure exerted on Sam Silkin as attorney general during a turbulent political period in the mid-70s, when the rule of law was seriously at risk.

I did not persuade Lord Goldsmith and he continues to believe that the attorney general should be at the heart of government so that he may be politically influential. The folly of his stance is underlined by this week's second arrest of Lord Levy. As the cash-for-honours inquiry moves closer to No 10, Lord Goldsmith's insistence that he has no choice but to decide whether anyone should be prosecuted looks ever more unsustainable. But events across the past five years have illustrated the need to reform the present arrangements in order to restore public trust in government and to strengthen the rule of law.

In his autobiography, In My Time, Wilson's attorney general, Lord Elwyn-Jones, recalled that Francis Bacon described the office as "the painfullest task in the realm". A few centuries later, Sir Patrick Hastings, Ramsay MacDonald's attorney general, noted that to be a law officer was to be in hell. In the early days of the office, the attorney general was called "the bulldog of the crown", though Elwyn-Jones liked to think of himself as "the corgi of the community", the corgi being Welsh and the Queen's favourite dog. It would be invidious to suggest an apt canine description for Lord Goldsmith, who would indignantly repudiate any suggestion that he is Tony Blair's poodle.

Good governance in accordance with the rule of law depends upon the proper working of the constitutional rules and conventions, and the political will to make them work. Stretched to breaking point over the Iraq invasion, those rules and conventions have now been broken in halting the criminal investigation into the British Aerospace affair.

It was wrong that the cabinet were content to discuss whether it would be lawful, in the absence of a security council resolution, to invade Iraq without a written brief from Lord Goldsmith, relying instead only on what he said to them. It was also wrong for the House of Lords to have been given only a Downing Street precis of his conclusions, without the benefit of his actual advice - including an explanation of what led him to change his advice of March 7 2003 within 10 days. When we debated the legality of the invasion we were kept in the dark, and it was only because his advice was leaked to the press that we learned something of the truth.

I share the opinion of almost all public international lawyers in this country that the invasion was unlawful without a new UN security council resolution authorising the use of force. To her great credit, the deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, promptly resigned because she did not agree that the use of force in Iraq was legal. She considered that Lord Goldsmith had reversed his view.

In December we learned that, in 1956, the law officers had been kept in the dark about the attack on Egypt during the Suez crisis. They were bypassed by Eden and his cabinet - presumably because they knew that what they were planning was plainly illegal. That episode provides another illustration of the need for reform today.

In addition to his role as government legal adviser and head of the government legal service, the attorney general also has important responsibilities for the enforcement of the criminal law in the courts. There are a number of offences where, by act of parliament, a prosecution cannot be brought without the fiat of the attorney general. These include offences under anti-corruption and race hate legislation. A member of the government should not decide whether to prosecute for a political offence, whether involving corruption or to prosecute Nick Griffin for his alleged incitement to racial hatred.

The manner in which the criminal investigation of alleged corruption was halted by the attorney general in relation to BAE Systems, like the Suez example, shows how fragile and inadequate are our present constitutional arrangements for protecting the rule of law. This scandal will not bring down the government. But it has gravely eroded public confidence in the government's integrity and it will be an unsavoury part of Tony Blair's precious legacy.

In halting the criminal investigation, the government has acted in clear breach of its obligations under the OECD convention against corruption. It has stained the international reputation of this country and set a terrible example. It has weakened the battle against corruption in international trade.

The weaving and ducking, buck-passing and hand-wringing, involving the prime minister, the attorney general, the Serious Fraud Office and the intelligence and security services, as to why and how and at whose behest the pending criminal investigation was halted, are what Lord Jenkins of Hillhead used to call a degringolade - a shambles harming the government's reputation as well as the reputation of British Aerospace and the Saudis, and adding to already widespread public distrust and cynicism about standards in public life.

I am delighted that Lord Falconer has indicated that the attorney general's role needs to be changed as part of further constitutional reform, and that Gordon Brown is considering radical reform to the attorney general's role so as to restore public trust. The sooner this happens the better it will be for the good governance of this country under the supreme law of the British constitution, or what should be our supreme constitutional law.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tony Blair has just purchased his fifth property. His latest purchase is a £800,000 Georgian mews house that backs on to the £3.65m townhouse in London’s Connaught Square. Blair also owns a house in Sedgefield and two flats in Bristol. He rents out three of his properties (estimated at £8,000 a month income) but has to find £20,000 a month in mortgage repayments.

Blair earns £115,000 a year after tax. His wife is reported to earn £250,000 a year. Even so, it is impossible to make these repayments on their current income. Clearly, he has some other source of income.

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As a member of the ADF, this is pretty interesting. BAe Systems hold a number of contracts within Australia (though none that come to mind that are subject to any type of controversy).

I have to admit, I do not follow British politics (though I will discuss it with a number of workmates, who are ex-UK personnel who have recently done a 'lateral transfer' to the ADF) but I'd like to ask some questions.

In Australia, Labor is widely perceived (within the ADF) as being 'detrimental' to Defence. Rightly or wrongly, they are seen by many to cut the Defence budget too severely. Even so, there are many personnel within the ADF who will not be voting for Mr Howard.

Is the UK Labor party seen in a similar light?

I noticed in the news the comparison between Mr Howard and Mr Blair; Mr Blair was being portrayed as cutting back on the RN, whilst Mr Howard is supporting the expansion of the RAN.

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In Australia, Labor is widely perceived (within the ADF) as being 'detrimental' to Defence. Rightly or wrongly, they are seen by many to cut the Defence budget too severely. Even so, there are many personnel within the ADF who will not be voting for Mr Howard.

Is the UK Labor party seen in a similar light?

The Labour Party used to be seen in this way. During previous periods of government: 1945-51, 1964-1970 and 1974-9, Labour governments tried to reduce the defence budget in order to increase welfare spending. These periods also saw increases in the higher-rates of income-tax.

Tony Blair's policy since 1997 has been very different. Income-tax rates have been kept low and as a result the gap between rich and poor has grown (in previous Labour administrations the opposite happened). Defence spending has increased rapidly. This is why BAE Systems pulled out of the Airbus project, it claimed that more money could be made by producing war planes than passenger planes.

The UK does not like to believe its politicians are corrupt. The media is always telling us we have the most honest democracy in the world. It is of course not true. It is not "honest" or democratic". Blair has taken corruption to a new level and hopefully this will eventually be recognised and we can then start to reform this deeply flawed political system.

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This is the news article to which I previously mentioned, though I am surprised & disagree with the conclusions drawn.

At the risk of derailing the thread, Australia's unique position has meant that we depend heavily upon our Sea Lines Of Communication. Additionally, apart from our northern borders, any aggressor force must traverse a large expanse of ocean to threaten Australia. This is why, along with the Air Force, the RAN has been the nation's first line of defence.

(The current employment of those defence forces is a matter for separate discussion, and WOULD derail the thread)

The UK, on the other hand, faces all of the traditional threat avenues (as well as the asymmetric).

John, do you think that (in light of a possible association with BAe) Mr Blair is favouring one service at the expense of another? Or might it be that he still holds some notion of an Empire and considers this the best way to support it?

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