Weapons firms have 50 staff inside UK Defense Ministry: openDemocracy
News website openDemocracy says major UK weapons manufacturers have staff working inside the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense.
News website openDemocracy claimed that more than 50 paid employees of global arms companies are working inside the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence (MoD).
According to the website, among the 50 employees are "nine staffers on long-term secondment from the UK’s biggest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems, some of whom have been embedded inside the department for years."
The website highlighted that BAE Systems last year made more than £4.1bn in sales from the MoD, bragging about its "strong and long-standing relationships" with the UK government.
OpenDemocracy reported that "almost all of this money was spent through contracts that were awarded without competitive tender."
"Major conflict of interest risks"
This comes as earlier reports said that UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’ top aide, Mark Fullbrook, is being paid through his own lobbying firm.
Commenting on the matter, Michael Ofori-Mensah, head of research at Transparency International Defence and Security, considered that "seconding industry insiders for senior Whitehall roles can provide invaluable insight, but also carries major conflict of interest risks."
OpenDemocracy revealed that "at least four BAE officials have been based for over three years in Defence Equipment and Support, the arms-length government body that purchases military goods and services from companies like BAE."
"A further six MoD staff are on secondment from Qinetiq, a huge defence technology company, while Rolls-Royce and Babcock have supplied at least two staffers each," the website added.
Documents obtained by openDemocracy show that "employees of seven arms companies including BAE, Leonardo, and MBDA are currently on secondments at the Department for International Trade (DIT)."
However, the website highlighted that "other officials installed in the ministry appear to have been lost in the system, with no record of who is paying them. Responding to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the department admitted it could not identify the employers of at least 23 people currently there on secondment."
BAE, Leonardo and MBDA exported weapons to Saudi Arabia
A UK government spokesperson said the secondments were part of "a long-standing arrangement designed to encourage better collaboration and improve technical expertise," adding that all secondees work under normal civil service rules and are subject to "robust security checks."
Sam Perlo-Freeman, the research coordinator at Campaign Against the Arms Trade, considered that the recent information shows how "deeply embedded" the arms industry is in the UK government.
"The very department charged with regulating arms exports has representatives of the arms industry at its heart," he told openDemocracy.
Perlo-Freeman considered that "the government essentially treats the industry's interests as its own, with tragic consequences for victims of conflict and repression in Yemen and worldwide."
According to openDemocracy, "BAE, Leonardo and MBDA have all exported weapons to Saudi Arabia that have subsequently been used in its war in Yemen. All three companies were named as parties to alleged Saudi war crimes in a complaint by human rights groups to the International Criminal Court."
The website mentioned that since the war on Yemen began in 2015, BAE Systems has sold £15bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, including Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets, despite its spokesperson claiming that the company's work for Saudi Arabia "does not involve the company in military operational activity and our people are not involved in the loading of weapons for operational sorties."
UK test weapons on Yemeni children
It is noteworthy that the United Kingdom signed off on arms exports worth nearly $1.9 billion to Saudi Arabia between July and September 2020 following the lifting of a ban on weapons sales to the Gulf country.
"UK-made weapons have played a devastating role in the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen, and the humanitarian crisis they have created, yet the UK government has done everything it can to keep the arms sales flowing," Sarah Waldron, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), had previously pointed out.
Between January 2015 and December 2019, the British government approved 385 licenses for the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.
In March, a member of the Supreme Political Council in Yemen, Mohammad Ali Al-Houthi, underscored that the US and UK test the effectiveness of their weapons by selling them to the Gulf aggression countries, which they use in killing Yemeni children.