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Revolving Doors in the UK Defence Industry  

The notion of 'revolving doors' refers to the interchange of employees between government and industry. It is also used to describe the movement of ex-ministers to industry and (less often) the movement of industry executives to ministerial office

The close relationship that the UK Ministry of Defence has with defence manufacturers and suppliers is particularly well known. The Defence Select Committee commented on this in 1999, drawing a distinction between MOD's relationship with its suppliers and that of other departments (House of Commons Defence Select Committee, Second Report: The Appointment of the New Head of Defence Export Services, 31st March 1999, HC 147, paragraph 12). As the Select Committee report noted: 'The relationship between the defence industry and the MoD is inevitably open to suspicion' (paragraph 12).

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) report that: 'On average, between 1997 and 2004, 39% of all applications to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, the body that regulates moves to private sector employment by the most senior members of the Civil Service, the Armed Forces and the Diplomatic Service, were made by individuals working in the MoD' (CAAT, 2005. Who calls the shots? p.14).

The Government's own Advisory Committee on Business Appointments warned: 'In the case of the MOD, it can be argued that the numbers seeking such employment are so significant as to amount to a 'traffic' from the Department to the defence contractors who supply it' (Advisory Committee, Sixth Report 2004).

Drawing on answers to parliamentary questions, CAAT reveals: 'Between 1984 and 1994, 2,002 officers in the armed forces received approval to take up employment with companies in military industry. Figures are not available for 1995 to 1998, but between 1 January 1999 and the end of June 2004, 614 officers received such approval' (CAAT, p14).

As the Advisory Committee notes, this can lead to suspicions of impropriety and a view that officers and their civilian equivalents 'might enter their final postings with a hope or expectation of post-retirement employment with companies with which they would be dealing officially' (Advisory Committee, Sixth Report 2004).

CAAT shows that since the beginning of the 1990s six ministers have moved from MOD to the arms industry:

* George Younger, Defence Secretary (1986-1989), became Chair of Siemens Plessey Electronic Systems in 1990, a military electronics firm bought by BAE Systems.

* Michael Portillo, Defence Secretary (1995-1997) joined BAE Systems in September 2002 as a Non Executive Director

* George Robertson. Defence Secretary (1997-1999). From 1999 to 2003 he was Secretary General of NATO. After NATO, Robertson accepted a Non-Executive Director position at military aerospace firm Smiths, starting in February 2004. This was a busy month for Robertson as he also became strategic advisor to the Royal Bank of Canada's European operation at the time that the company was reportedly trying to raise £500 million in a private finance deal to modernise the Army's barracks at Colchester. And in the same month he became a Non-Executive Director of the Weir group, the Glasgow-based engineering firm which is a major supplier of weapons systems for all Royal Navy submarines.

* Geoffrey Pattie, Minister of State for Defence Procurement (1983-1984), became Chair of Marconi Electronic Systems from June 1990 to 1999, Director of Marketing for GEC plc from 1997 to 1998 and Director of Communications for GEC from 1998 to 1999. Pattie is now the senior of two partners at Terrington Management, a political lobbying company whose clients include defence companies BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin.

* Jonathan Aitken, Minister of State for Defence Procurement (1992-1994). Aitken had been on the board of BMARC (1988-1990), a company allegedly involved in supplying arms to Iraq and Burma. Aitken moved to GEC Marconi in 1998 as a consultant but his contract was terminated when he received an 18-month prison sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice in 1999. He denied that aides of the Saudi Royal family paid a £1,000 Paris Ritz hotel bill in 1993. This denial was subsequently exposed as a lie. Because he was Procurement Minister at the time of his stay, he was officially banned from accepting any benefits that may affect his judgement.

* Roger Freeman, Minister for Defence Procurement (1994-1995), went on to become a Non-Executive Director of Thomson-CSF/Thales and Non-Executive Chair of Thomson CSF/Thales-UK in 1999.39

Perhaps less surprisingly, the government's arms sales organisation DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation) has always seconded its head from the arms industry.

Arms companies have continued to offer jobs to senior MOD officials and military officers since Labour came to -power in 1997. Some of these have been identified by CAAT:

* Air Chief Marshall Sir John Day, after leaving his post as Commander-in-Chief, Strike Command, took up an appointment as a military advisor to BAE Systems in December 2003.

* Sir Robert Walmsley, Chief of Defence Procurement in the MoD from May 1996 until April 2003, became a Member of the US Board of Directors of General Dynamics in May 2004.

* Vice Admiral McAnally, Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies until December 2000, took up a position of Naval Adviser to Flagship Training in July 2001. Flagship, jointly owned by BAE Systems and VT Group, markets Royal Naval training abroad.

* Air Marshall Sir Peter Norris was Deputy Chief of Defence Procurement (operations) until October 2000. He became Defence Advisor to Alenia Marconi Systems in June 2001 and Advisor to Pilatus Aircraft Ltd, a Swiss company that make civil and military single-engine turboprops, in December 2001.

* General Sir Roger Wheeler, Chief of the General Staff until April 2000, became a Non-Executive Director of Thomson-CSF/Thales in February 2001.

* Sir Scott Grant, Quartermaster General until March 2000, was appointed by Thomson Racal Defence Ltd/Thales as Customer Support Director in January 2001.

* Vice Admiral Sir John Dunt, former Chief of Fleet Support at the MoD until March 2000, became Principal Defence Advisor to Defence Business and Marketing International Ltd. In January 2001.

* Edmund Burton, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Systems) until September 1999, became a consultant for TRW Inc in November 2000.

* Professor Sir David Davies, Chief Scientific Advisor in the MoD until April 1999, became a Member of the Strategy Board at British Aerospace Virtual University in December 1999.

* Air Marshal Sir Colin Terry, Air Officer Commander-in-Chief at RAF Logistics and Chief Engineer of the RAF until August 1999 became Group Managing Director of Inflite Engineering Ltd

* Admiral Sir Jock Slater, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff (1995-1998), became a Non-Executive Director of Vosper Thornycroft Holdings plc, owner of warship manufacturer VT Shipbuilding, in July 1999 and a Senior Military Advisor of Lockheed Martin UK Ltd. In January 2000.

* Mr. M. Bell, who had been on secondment from the MoD to BAE Systems for two and a half years, left the MoD permanently to became Group Head of Strategic Analysis in April 1999.

* Air Marshal Graeme Robertson, Chief of Staff RAF Strike Command until November 1998, became a Military Adviser to British Aerospace in March 1999.

* Air Chief Marshall Sir Michael Graydon, Chief of Air Staff until August 1997, became a Non-Executive Director of Thomson CSF-UK/Thales in January 1999.

* Air Marshal Sir Roger Austin was Deputy Chief of Defence Procurement (operations) until May 1997. In June 1998 he became a Fellow of Strategic Forum at Serco Defence which provides the MoD with support services.

* Air Chief Marshall Sir William Wratten, former Commander-in-Chief, RAF Strike Command until November 1997, became Chief Military Advisor to Rolls Royce Military Aero Engines in May 1998.

* Lord Inge, former Chief of Defence Staff (1994-1997), 62 became a Non-Executive Director of Racal Electronics (1997-2000) and a consultant to BAE Systems.

* Sir Peter Harding, Graydon's predecessor as Chief of Air Staff, went on to become Deputy Chair of GEC Marconi from 1995-1998.

In addition, Vice-admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, deputy chief of defence staff was barred for six months from lobbying officials or ministers after he retired from service in September 2002. He later became UK president of European Aerospace and Defence Systems.

Secondments between MOD and the arms industry are a significant part of the traffic between the two. From answers in Parliament, CAAT shows that in June 2002 it was revealed that BAE Systems had eight staff working on secondment at the MoD (probably part of the MoD-run Interchange Programme through which the department encourages reciprocal secondment and job swaps between the MoD and industry). In May 2003, the government disclosed that at least 38 from of a total of 79 individuals seconded to the department between April 1997 and January 2003 came from arms-producing companies. Of these, 22 were seconded from BAE Systems for periods between six and 37 months.68 In November 2002 the government disclosed that from the six senior MoD staff seconded to military industry since April 2000, two went to work at BAE Systems, one for six and one for 24 months, two went to Thales for 24 months and one went to Rolls Royce for 24 months.

Finally there are a series of military advisory bodies on which military industry representatives sit alongside staff from the MOD and the armed forces. A network of such ad hoc advisory bodies of 'expert opinion' allows ministers to claim they consult widely while also allowing access and influence to the arms industry.

Telegraph  [Publication date: 17/4/2007] 'Deso chief expected to rejoin BAE Systems' by Katherine Griffiths
[Date URL accessed: 7/5/2007 | Source ID = 14753]

The Independent  [Publication date: 5/5/2005] 'BAE DECIDES AGAINST US MILITARY BOARD APPOINTMENT' by Michael Harrison
[Date URL accessed: 25/5/2005 | Source ID = 13618]

  [Publication date: 27/4/2005] 'UK Connections: Access and Influence' by Steve Davies
[Date URL accessed: 1/8/2005 | Source ID = 8530]

House of Lords  [Publication date: 22/3/2005] 'Register of Lords' Interests'
[Date URL accessed: 23/3/2005 | Source ID = 13305]

CAAT  [Publication date: 1/2/2005] 'Who calls the shots?'

[Date URL accessed: 29/3/2005 | Source ID = 13307]

House of Commons  [Publication date: 28/1/2005] 'Register of Members' Interests (Session 2004-05)'
[Date URL accessed: 23/3/2005 | Source ID = 13304]

The Guardian  [Publication date: 16/8/2004] 'Increase in ministers and officials barred from taking advantage of former jobs' by David Hencke
[Date URL accessed: 1/3/2005 | Source ID = 13188]

The Guardian  [Publication date: 16/8/2004] 'Plan to end Whitehall sleaze rule Path eased to private sector jobs'

[Date URL accessed: 3/2/2005 | Source ID = 12957]

Advisory Committee on Business Appointments  [Publication date: 1/7/2004] 'The Advisory Committee On Business Appointments Sixth Report 2002–2004'
[Date URL accessed: 1/3/2005 | Source ID = 13186]

Guardian  [Publication date: 25/6/2004] 'The spoils of office: Like their Tory predecessors, former New Labour ministers are now dining off corporate consultancies' by Kevin Maguire
[Date URL accessed: 30/3/2005 | Source ID = 13322]

The Guardian  [Publication date: 13/6/2003] 'Web of state corruption dates back 40 years' by Rob Evans, Ian Traynor, Luke Harding
[Date URL accessed: 25/5/2005 | Source ID = 13639]



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