Friday, December 15, 2006

Lovey Dove-y

"The wider public interest"..."outweigh[s] the need to maintain the rule of law".
It looks like an extraordinary thing for the highest officer of the law in any jurisdiction to say. But the BBC's diplomatic correspondent writes: "Nobody anywhere is...surprised at [the] decision" [to end a corruption investigation into a British-Saudi arms deal].

Well, even if that's true (and not everyone agrees -- see comments below by one activist), please let's have a dispassionate and rigorous analysis of what the attorney general's statement and the Prime Minister's reasoning say about: 1) the British constitutional system and the place of law within it; and 2) how, precisely, "the UK public interest in terms of both national security and our highest priority foreign policy objectives in the Middle East" is served.

(The activist wrote:
Why should anyone want 'integrate' into a country that: goes to war illegally; makes money selling arms to despotic regimes; lets arms traders know they above the law; allows the judiciary to be overruled by the executive; claims that it is not in the 'national interest' to uphold the rule of law and; has a government that brazenly pretends that the 'national interest' is not 'economic' ('national interest' halts arms corruption inquiry, 14 December). Let's face it, we are hooked on oil and will do anything to ensure we keep on getting it, including sell arms to pay for it - and blow the impact on global climate. Only one political party has stood up against all of this but, because of our outdated electoral system, it hasn't a single seat in parliament. Vote Green for sanity and self-respect!

1 comment:

Caspar Henderson said...

On 15 Dec, the Financial Times editorialised:

First, to give into Saudi pressure is tantamount to issuing a general invitation to blackmail. It has been Britain's policy that governments cannot interfere with the course of enquiries or meddle with the rule of law. What will they say now when, for instance, Moscow demands the return of Chechen dissidents or Riyadh objects to BBC broadcasts?

Second, Britain's sermons about transparency and good governance, as well as adherence to anti-bribery conventions, will be blown away by gales of derision - and rightly so. The reputation of the SFO, moreover, will be badly tarnished.

Third, does it really advance UK and western strategic aims to pour arms into Saudi Arabia? It is doubtful this really contributes to the kingdom's defence. Military spending, at about three times the average for a developing country, is used as a mechanism for distributing wealth and power within the top ranks of the House of Saud. A bloated absolutist monarchy squandering fabulous public wealth is not exactly a recipe for stability.

On 18 Dec Christopher Adams and Jimmy Burns in reported in the FT:

Saudi Arabia threatened to withdraw all co-operation on security, including intelligence sharing on al-Qaeda, and downgrade its embassy in London, unless Tony Blair scrapped a fraud inquiry into its dealings with BAE Systems.

The Saudi message presumably being: if you don't do what we like, we will stand by as Al Qaeda attacks you.

So these are the people our national security and our rule of law depend on.