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How BAE and a rather mysterious Labour peer get rich as our troops die

CRAIG MURRAY

lordtaylormos_468x480.jpg

Lord Taylor, who has links with BAE


2 September 2007

After the First World War, Stanley Baldwin surveyed the House of Commons of which he was soon to become Conservative Prime Minister.

He was filled with disgust, dismissing the MPs as 'a lot of hard-faced men who looked as though they had done rather well out of the war'.

He had hit upon a universal truth.

To you and me, the Iraq and Afghan wars may look like unmitigated disasters.

Hundreds of our young soldiers have died, as have untold thousands of local civilians, but to what end?

Even the minority who supported the invasion of Iraq are inclined to agree that the subsequent occupation has been catastrophically handled.

Iraq is more than ever a failed state, with an abysmal decline in the most basic water, energy and health services for the majority of the population.

Armed militias control their little fiefdoms, sometimes actually constituting the laughably named Iraqi security services.

Nowhere is that more true than in Basra, now controlled from Tehran, while our troops hunker in ditches under mortar fire and take casualties whenever they venture out on patrol.

Last month, for the second time, the Iraqi governor of one of the provinces we had declared secure and 'handed over' to Iraqi forces was murdered, almost certainly not by Al Qaeda but by the very warring factions to whom we have handed control.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the drugs warlords we promoted to the Karzai government preside over massively increased opium harvests and busy heroin factories.

The United Nations has just announced that this year the opium harvest is up 30 per cent, after a massive 60 per cent increase last year.

Heroin production has increased more than tenfold since our invasion, while there are more men in arms against us than at any time since the conflict began.

It is hard to believe anybody can think our policy is a success.

Yet there are those who have indeed, in Baldwin's biting phrase, 'done rather well out of the war'.

It has been waged at a great cost, not just in young soldiers' lives but in cash.

When we talk of the vast sums that have been spent more than 250billion by the United States and at least 30billion by the UK - the eyes tend to glaze over.

Strings of noughts, such as those in 30,000,000,000, look surreal, but it is very real cash indeed, taken from your pocket and mine.

And very little of it goes to the poor bloody infantry, who get pitifully little extra pay for their daily heroism.

Their value in the grand scheme of things was well illustrated this week by the campaign for Ben Parkinson, the 23-year-old Lance Bombardier who lost both legs and sustained permanent brain damage from a landmine last year in Afghanistan.

The Government valued the ruin of his life at a pathetic 152,150.

Parkinson's mother denounced the compensation as 'contemptible', and she was absolutely right.

But his plight neatly illustrates an important truth.

Even in the most extreme circumstances, our highly professional servicemen see only a minute fraction of the vast sums of money spent.

More than 90 per cent of it goes to private-sector firms who benefit from war, including arms manufacturers.

Rolls-Royce gets about 25 per cent of its income from military sales, a figure that has been climbing steadily since the start of the Iraq and Afghan wars and which is now steaming past the 2billion-per-year mark.

It has been a very good war for Rolls-Royce chairman John Rose, whose pay rose to 6.9million last year.

One year in his life is apparently worth 45 times the suffering of Lance Bombardier Parkinson.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

These wars have also introduced us to the new phenomenon of 'legitimate' mercenary companies such as Aegis Defence Services.

There are currently up to three times as many British mercenaries as British troops in Iraq.

Tony Blair's favourite mercenary soldier, Colonel Tim Spicer, famed for his involvement in failed coups with Sandline and Executive Outcomes and now boss of Aegis Specialist Risk Management, has added many millions to his private fortune.

But the biggest British beneficiary has been BAE Systems formerly British Aerospace highlighting its extraordinary and poisonous relationship with New Labour.

In reporting its financial results, BAE was very open about the conflicts being massively profitable, its year-on-year pre-tax profit soaring from 378million to 675million.

BAE said the 'high tempo' of UK and US military operations was increasing demand for its land-based weapons systems. Which is to say that the faster our lads die, the more money it makes.

Turnover of its Land and Armaments Division, which makes tanks and munitions, was up 43 per cent.

As a result, BAE chief executive Mike Turner receives a salary of 2.4million, plus performance bonuses which bring his total earnings to about 4million 150 times the salary of most of the men whose more meagre contribution to the war effort is simply to lay down their lives for their country, and about 30 times the salary of our generals in the field.

British Aerospace is, of course, the company that, according to reports, allegedly provided 600million in bribes for Saudi princes, as well as trafficking in sex for them.

Blair decided an investigation into these allegations should be dropped 'in the national interest'.

British Aerospace has the closest of relationships with New Labour.

When Robin Cook became Foreign Secretary in 1997, he announced he intended to institute an 'ethical foreign policy'.

Blair was determined to scupper this, particularly as it was known in the Foreign Office and Downing Street that Cook planned to block a substantial sale of British Aerospace Hawk jets to Indonesia, a country that had a record of using air power against civilians in East Timor.

Before Cook was ready, Blair ambushed him on the issue at one of New Labour's very first Cabinet meetings. Jack Straw led the attack, speaking in favour of BAE.

He was strongly supported by Gordon Brown.

In the first few weeks of Blair's premiership, nobody was prepared to speak against him in Cabinet, and Cook was not just defeated but deliberately humiliated by Blair; I have had an eyewitness account of this meeting from a then Cabinet Minister.

Cook was later to say: 'I came to learn that the chairman of BAE appeared to have the key to the garden door to No10. Certainly I never knew No10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to BAE.'

Straw has always been the most pervasive and insidious supporter of BAE in the Cabinet.

It was he who lobbied hardest against Cook's plans to limit BAE arms sales, and when Blair sacked Cook it was Straw who replaced him as Foreign Secretary.

According to my sources in the Foreign Office, Straw also lobbied hard for the investigation into the alleged bribes to be dropped, bombarding colleagues with notes about the potential consequences for our relationship with Saudi Arabia if the investigation should go ahead; and it is Straw who is now, supreme irony, Minister of Justice.

It is insufficiently appreciated what a huge shift in our constitution has been brought about by the Government decision that BAE Systems stood, in effect, above the law.

Lord Goldsmith, as Attorney General, intoned that in deciding to call off the investigation 'it is necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest'.

That is a complete reversal of the doctrine, personified in many a blindfold statue outside a law court, that justice is blind and must take its course.

The New Labour doctrine is that the Government can overrule the law if it is in 'the public interest' to do so.

And who decides? Why, they do, of course.

Charles I lost his head trying to assert that he stood above the law.

New Labour have pulled it off with hardly a murmur, and all in the interests of their friends at BAE.

When Straw escorted Condoleezza Rice around the North West of England in March 2006, a BAE arms factory was the highlight of the trip.

His links with BAE include Lord Taylor of Blackburn, the former leader of the borough council that includes Straw's Blackburn constituency.

Lord Taylor, an archetypal New Labour apparatchik from Straw's constituency machine, has lived off the taxpayer in Labour Party-appointed posts all his life.

He is now chiefly known as the second highest claimer of expenses in the House of Lords, in 2005 claiming more than 57,000 in tax-free expenses three times the average. He spoke 15 times in that year.

But he doesn't really need public money any more, as Lord Taylor is a prime beneficiary of the defence industry.

As is clear from the Register of Members' Interests, he was a highly paid 'consultant' to BAE for more than a decade.

He has used some of his money to make major contributions to Jack Straw's election expenses, declared by Straw in the Register of Members' Interests.

Lord Taylor has also contributed funds to Blackburn New Labour.

When I stood as an Independent against Straw in Blackburn at the last Election, Lord Taylor was present with Straw at a black-tie event hosted by BAE and said to be 'unrelated to the Election'.

Interestingly, this year in the House of Lords Register of Members' interests, BAE has disappeared from Lord Taylor's list of 11 paid consultancies and two paid directorships.

But at least five of these companies have close contractural relationships with BAE and operate in the weapons industry.

Among the companies Lord Taylor advises is EDS, a software company that does a lot of work with the arms industry and has also made many billions from the Iraq War.

Among its many current defence contracts is a 6billion project on electronic systems for the US armed forces and a 4billion contract with the UK's Ministry of Defence for a similar project.

One of the astonishing things about Lord Taylor is that he has no obvious professional connections that led him to be the weapons industry's most valued consultant.

He has no military background, and in so far as he has had any vocation outside of being a Labour Party hack, it is as a trendy lefty educationalist.

So, one has to wonder what exactly EDS and BAE have paid him to do.

I'm sure Lord Taylor is a man of many talents.

He worked in local government for many years, specialising in the field of education, and was the National President of the Education Authorities of the United Kingdom.

But one must wonder whether it is his links to New Labour and his seat in the national legislature that are of particular interest to the arms industry.

When questioned about Lord Taylor's role, a BAE spokesman said the peer was not, and never had been, a consultant or adviser to the company, despite the fact that Lord Taylor has described himself as a consultant in the House of Lords' Register of Members' Interests.

Instead, the spokesman said Lord Taylor was the chairman of a technology company called A Division which supplied 'training and educational services' to BAE.

The Mail on Sunday was unable to reach Lord Taylor.

Meanwhile, our soldiers keep dying and BAE keeps raking in the cash.

This country has a history of imposing windfall taxes on the oil industry when unusual market conditions lead to excessive profits.

BAE is making 2million-a-day profit on the grief of bereaved families.

I call for a windfall tax on the armaments industry.

Let us see Lord Taylor and others of his ilk on their feet in the House to argue against that.


:: Article nr. 35904 sent on 02-sep-2007 23:18 ECT

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