John McDonnell toasts Prime Minister’s new ethics counselor over role with “unethical arms dealer”
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Downing Street’s new ethics counselor has come under fire for his previous work with a UK defense firm, BAE Systems.
John McDonnell of Labor questioned Lord Geidt’s appointment to the ministerial standards oversight role, as he accused him of working for an “unethical arms dealer”.
Lord Geidt, charged with investigating funding for the renovation of the Downing Street apartment, served on BAE Systems’ international advisory board until April, when he was appointed Boris Johnson’s new independent advisor on departmental standards.
Appearing at the Commons Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, Geidt insisted he would “speak the truth to power” by promising to release evidence on the dish’s case and release the long-awaited register of ministerial interests.
But former shadow chancellor John McDonnell questioned whether the peer found it “ironic” that he had been brought in to give advice on “suitability and ethics” to government given his role with the government giant. aerospace.
“This is a business that has sunk into the depths of unethical behavior,” McDonnell said.
“She was found guilty of defrauding the US government and paid a fine of $ 500 million in plea.” She was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for use of corruption to sell arms in Chile, the Czech Republic, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tanzania and Qatar. “
The Labor MP also reported on a complaint lodged with the International Criminal Court by a group of human rights organizations. who accused BAE Systems and other European arms manufacturers of being party to alleged war crimes in Yemen.
“Last year the company was charged with war crimes. It supplied weapons used by Saudi regimes to bomb civilians, meaning schools and hospitals, tens of thousands of dead, “he said.
“How can you be independent and have a relationship with the Prime Minister when it was the Prime Minister as Foreign Minister who signed the export licenses for the company itself?”
He added: “How can anyone trust you to behave ethically when you have been associated with an unethical arms dealer who is willing to sell arms to any murderous dictatorship and brutal and used bribery to secure those sales? “
Geidt said he was “proud” of the role, given his work as a former soldier, but insisted the UK heavily regulates the arms industry.
“I absolutely appreciate what you said about the track record of BAE systems, but I have placed my trust in taking on this role on the attitude of the UK government, which is active in licensing the business. BAE systems, ”he said.
“I was proud to do this job for a few years because it matched my previous experience and interests and I take very seriously the importance of being able to guarantee – and there have been criticisms of this in the past – that our men and women of the armed forces … can call on the equipment on which their own defense and the defense of the nation depends.
Geidt confirmed that he has now “stepped down from this role” to give himself enough time to take on the role of independent advisor on ministerial standards.
He added that “when the time comes” he could step down from other outside roles that he continues to hold “depending on the burden of this important role that I have now accepted.”
The new ethics counselor told MPs he agreed with their analysis that the rules on ministerial standards are “not enough to spur good behavior”.
The cross-peer was appointed to the vacant post following the resignation of former adviser Sir Alex Allan, who announced his departure in November following an intimidating probe into Home Secretary Priti Patel .
Prime Minister Boris Johnson concluded that his cabinet colleague had not broken the ministerial code, although Sir Alex said in his report that Patel “did not always live up to the high standards expected of her”. Patel denies the allegations.
But Geidt said that while he hoped to build a “relationship of trust” with the prime minister, he did not rule out resigning as well if his recommendations were ignored.
While he said he would not be drawn into a hypothetical discussion, he added that “the power is there” and that “if so, I could do the same.”