Labour and Tories: united in blocking corruption investigations

by Stephen Tall on April 12, 2008

This week’s High Court ruling that the Government acted unlawfully in dropping the probe into corruption allegations around the Al Yamamah arms deal was deeply embarrassing for this supposedly ‘purer than pure’ Labour Government. As the judges ruled:

We fear for the reputation of the administration of justice if it can be perverted by a threat … No one, whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice. The rule of law is nothing if it fails to constrain overweening power.”

But Labour don’t have to worry too much about any political repercussions – because they’re immoral stance is backed to the hilt by the Tories. As today’s Guardian reports:

Gordon Brown yesterday won Conservative backing for a move that would allow the government to block future criminal investigations such as the corruption case against the arms company BAE Systems. … Yesterday the shadow attorney general, Dominic Gieve, said: “We believe the existing system, by which the attorney is responsible for the public interest in deciding whether or not a prosecution should be discontinued because of national security issues, should continue. The attorney is accountable to parliament for her actions and her decision can be challenged in the courts if made unreasonably or capriciously.”

If you’re at all curious why Labour and the Tories should be united in their belief that the rule of law doesn’t matter a damn, click on these articles previously published by Lib Dem Voice:
The ConHome verdict on Tories’ BAE bribes silence (11th June, 2007)
BAE, corruption and more silence from the Conservatives (8th June, 2007)
Another day, another BAe corruption debate (2nd February, 2007)
Al Yamamah: Conservatives silent, yet again (17th January, 2007)
David Cameron and Saudi corruption (21st December, 2006)
Al Yamamah: Conservatives silent, again (20th December, 2006)

And you can of course read a whole lot more about this Tory/Labour arms scandal at the Lib Dems’ Corruption is a Crime website.

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No comments

What does Lord Ashdown say on this? If Lib Dems were in power you would be making the same choices that the other parties have made. As Richard Dale said in comment at Iain Dale (no relation) there was immorality but no illegality in payments – at the time they were made. The case would not be won. The victim of the immorality is unclear. The cost in legal cash was huge. Cost also in jobs and security. You need to start answering these kinds of points – not listed exhaustively – or expect to be treated as lazy thinking naive bleaters.

by Chris Paul on April 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm. Reply #

Chris, the main victims of corruption like this are the people of Saudi Arabia. The Al Yamamah arms deal saw the Saudis paying up to 30% more for planes in order to line the pockets of the corrupt regime that govern their country.

I appreciate you might not care about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, the funnelling of the tax take from that country’s vast resources into repression and the hands of a few, formenting extremist terrorism in reaction, or our Government facilitating the provision of weapon systems to help them do it.

But if that is your view, perhaps, like the Government, you should have the sense to wallow in your swamp in silence.

by Norman Scott on April 12, 2008 at 2:40 pm. Reply #

Chris: you say that it is clear and uncontroversial that there was no law broken at all.

How come then after years of investigation by the police and the Serious Fraud Office, both of them thought there was plenty of evidence that a law had been broken and hence there was a major investigation going on?

If what you’re saying is correct, the investigation would have been ended years earlier, without any need for Saudi pressure or Labour pressure.

by Mark Pack on April 12, 2008 at 3:01 pm. Reply #

This whole issue is extremely worrying becasue it undermines the standing of the law in the UK where the Executive thinks it can override the impartial examination of this deal. Now Govt and opposition want to enshrine that principle(??) itself in law.

Gordon Brown appeared to recognise that as a problem and now has ‘U’ turned.

I expect the US to give him a hard timne on the matter as they have tightened up on this law for US companies and will frown on unfair competition.

I am proud that our party has taken a stand on this and is not afraid of bullying tactics.

by Paul L on April 12, 2008 at 5:21 pm. Reply #

Chris Paul how does the action of both the Labour and Conservative parties not make a nonsense out of the ratification (after many cockups) of the ‘International Convention on Bribery of Public Officials’?

Clearly it is same old Tories they are after all the party of arms for Iraq. However I would have thought Robin Cooke would be spinning in his grave with the way Labour is behaving.

As Paul L has observed for once I wish that Labour/Cons would want to be more like the U.S. and look at the way that the Justice Department actually makes an effort to tackle white collar crime.

by Simon on April 12, 2008 at 6:51 pm. Reply #

This sort of legal protection of the state-within-a-state that is BAE does nothing to help British jobs or security. Our security is threatened when infantry units suffer cuts to keep lining BAE’s pockets for overpriced, delayed equipment. The paltry number of jobs kept up by BAE do not justify the huge expense of keeping them afloat.

by Anax on April 12, 2008 at 7:19 pm. Reply #

The Al-Yamamah deal also violated the human rights of the British population. Democracy requires equality before the law, the rule of law, transparency and accountability. All of these requirements were violated by the secret deals, special treatment and state-sanctioned corruption that occurred. That it was all done in secret is an appalling way of circumventing democratic accountability. Labour and the Tories should hang their heads in shame.

by Steve Cooke on April 12, 2008 at 8:18 pm. Reply #

Was it £250,000 that the wife of the Saudi arms dealer who brokered al-Yamamah gave to the Tories?

Maybe it was more?

It certainly bought their support, the crooked sleazy Tories.

by ColinW on April 12, 2008 at 11:47 pm. Reply #

Yes it was Mrs Wafic Said who gave the cash to Cameron. Oh and it was £550,000.

Nothing dodgy there then.

by ColinW on April 12, 2008 at 11:55 pm. Reply #

Well, I guess that I am going to attract a lot of flak here for this, but I am inclined towards the side of the government and against the judges on this.

Let me explain. I should at this point say that I know very little about Saudi arms deals, but I know a little more about “alternative business environments” – someone mentioned that the Saudis are skimming off only 30%:- it is rumoured to be closer to 60% where I live so these things are relative.

Superficially of course it looks like a no-brainer the other way. Why should we condone bribery on international deals when one of the strengths of the UK is that it is relatively free of such behaviour?

But then we need to look at what corruption actually means within the societies in which it operates. Take the extreme case of Azerbaijan. Here the corruption was so organsised that there was a central price list for the level of bribe required to get anything done. If you were feeling enterprising, it would have been perfectly possible to borrow cash to buy a position which you would pay back from bribes that you took in. Sounds terrible, but in fact it is not so very different from buy-to-let.

Now it is easy to sit in ivory towers in the UK and be rude about the ways in which other cultures operate, with very little real understanding of the pros and cons (and, believe me, there are definitely two sides to this coin). It becomes a real problem when you have to resolve which codes will operate in international deals. It seems to me that those posting here feel that deals with the UK should be made totally on the UK’s terms (or on the terms of some international pannel dominated by western interests)

Now, if I am a national of another country then I might be put out (to put it mildly) if the UK were to completely ignore the way that things are done in my country and insists on imposing its own rules and regulations. Would I insist on feeding pork to Jewish friends who come to dinner? No, I would find a compromise.

It is not, I think, a coincidence that the UK political parties with experience of government (i.e. Labour and the Tories) realise this whereas the Lib Dems stomp around like little islanders expecting the natives of other coutries to drop their slightly backward customs and play by our rules or else. Very Palmerston.

Would I like to live in a world without bribery? Sure. Should we impose it on the rest of the world? Rather like democracy, I think these things are best developed from within rather than imposed from without.

by passing tory on April 13, 2008 at 1:08 pm. Reply #

“Now it is easy to sit in ivory towers in the UK and be rude about the ways in which other cultures operate, with very little real understanding of the pros and cons ”

… I’m sorry PT this is such a barrowload of relativist crap that I’m surprised you haven’t defected to us already…

It’s also the defence that Sicilian politicians used in respect of failing to deal with the mafia… it’s just ‘our thing’ or ‘our way’ they would say. People tried to come up with elaborate cultural explanations for the mafia, but the simple truth is that mafia crimes are committed by criminals and flourish due to ineffective enforcement and convenient expedience by the authorities.

The same is true of bribery and corruption, and it is simply bollocks to suggest that there is something of a cultural tradition of bribery in some countries that should mitigate the way will try and deal in those countries. Anymore than we should put up with criminal intellectual property theft in China. We pressure their governments and lead by example.

When we don’t do the latter, we undermine the former and make the problem worse. Both the previous Conservative and current Labour governments have been complicit with engaging in bribery in Saudi Arabia and failing to apply pressure to the Saudi government to clean up their act. That in turn is emblematic of a host of weak positions that have enabled the Saudi-state to stagger on, unreformed in a manner that threatens our security through the formenting of international terrorism.

It makes the pathetic position of the South African government in respect of Zimbabwe look like a rather mild piece of weakness and complicity by comparison.

by Norman Scott on April 13, 2008 at 2:46 pm. Reply #

My goodness! Passing Tory even manages to insinuate that opponents of bribery in international trade are anti-Semitic!

Yes, indeed, Norman Scott. The relativism that Passing Tory preaches is the very same principle that is used to defend widow burning, female genital mutilation, arranged marriages, etc, etc.

The British tradition of grovelling to Saudi plutocrats goes way back.

Readers may recall a film, “Death of a Princess”, about the public beheading of a member of the Saudi Royal Family who had been caught having sex with a man outside marriage.

The film was shown on television (despite heavy government bullying of the TV company), and Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador in protest. So Lord Carrington was dispatched to perform anilingus on every Saudi bigwig he could find, and government ministers lined up to praise Saudi Arabia, its political system, its customs, religion, culture, etc.

Dr Jesse Dickson Mabon (a Labour defector to the SDP) said on “Question Time” that “Death of a Princess” was a “heinous film”, and that we in the UK have no basis for claiming that our way of doing things is better than the Saudis’. A relativist bootlicker if ever there was one.

I guess Passing Tory agrees with Dr Mabon.

by Sesenco on April 13, 2008 at 5:08 pm. Reply #

PT: see also, wife beating and genital mutilation. Because other cultures do it, we should respect them.

Oh, wait.

by sanbikinoraion on April 13, 2008 at 7:34 pm. Reply #

Sesenco, Norman; I am not at all surprised that my position is unpopular – it is just that the discussion was a little one-sided and IMHO not the better for it.

Am I a cultural relativist? Well, it depends on your precise definition but I reckon that most people who know me would say not.

But does not mean that I close my eyes to other cultures (by which I mean the sum of the formal and informal rules present in a society). When I first lived in a country where bribery was the rule rather than the exception I was more than a little shocked. But on closer examination such issues seem far less black and white than they did at first. This makes me wonder whether you have any direct experience of such systems.

The things is, from under your cloak of liberal interventionism, what you are really arguing for is cultural supremacy: that what you should perceive as more backward cultures should “progress” and follow your rules.

And, you may not be surprised to hear, I see this whole argument from the other side. Many people across the world strongly resent having cultural values imposed from them from the US and the UK.

This is not to say that I do not believe that the values prevalent in the UK compare extremely favourably with those in many countries. I think they do. But I also think we need to be extremely wary about throwing our weight around and crowing about how wonderful we are and how everyone should be like us.

You might not like it, but there are other narratives in the world than that of US/UK cultural dominance. Of course, you may want to fight the good fight and tackle these head on. I, however, would strongly prefer to see the UK as the “beacon on the hill” that others aspire to, rather than the local laird imposing his will on the masses.

Sure, sometimes this will mean doing things in ways that you don’t necessarily like, but there is a huge amount to fix in the UK without needing to set out to govern the world.

by passing tory on April 13, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Reply #

damn, I wrote that badly. well, I’ll correct it if people are confused by my typos.

by passing tory on April 13, 2008 at 8:05 pm. Reply #

Doesn’t cultural relativism cut both ways? Or are the Saudis bribe-taking automata who can’t be expected to understand the intricacies of other cultures?

by Anax on April 13, 2008 at 11:49 pm. Reply #

Of course it does, and of course they should. The question is then where the meeting point should be. Posters are here are indicating it should be right at our end of the spectrum and that is what I take issue with.

by passing tory on April 14, 2008 at 6:48 am. Reply #

So giving huge bribes to a Saudi princeling, the cost of which BAE will pass onto the UK taxpayer, is a midpoint between honesty and dishonesty?

A more reasonable midpoint would be ‘we’ll buy these expensive planes which we don’t really need, and you’ll buy something equally pointless from us.’ That doesn’t work with the Saudis, because they don’t produce anything except oil.

by Anax on April 14, 2008 at 9:52 am. Reply #


I haven’t looked into the details of the particular case but I suspect it is not so much the deal falling on the UK taxpayer and saudi oil money going from one bank account to another.

I rather imagine that the contract cost = production costs + profit + bribe and while the whole lot comes out of one set of bank accounts, the bribe goes back into another (more personal) one. So, in many ways it is an entirely Saudi problem.

I strongly doubt that the UK government would be supporting such a deal if the profits and tax revenue did not significantly exceed the bribes.

by passing tory on April 14, 2008 at 10:38 am. Reply #

The UK government has a long history of throwing good money after bad with regards to BAE. It’s not about profits and tax revenue, the aim is to keep British jobs and maintain an independent defence industry.

Whether it actually works is another matter. It means we end up with junk like the SA80. Especially if we rely on bribery for the export market.

by Anax on April 14, 2008 at 8:38 pm. Reply #

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