Who killed Nikkita Walters and Katie-Jo Davies?

The movers and shakers of the Welsh weapons industry will gather on Tuesday 7 April 2009 for the annual Aerolink Wales arms fair. Organisers promise ‘a host of new opportunities for our attendees’ plus a very pleasant stay – at the taxpayers’ expense, of course – in the 4 star Vale of Glamorgan Hotel and Spa.

But just who are the people intent on putting Wales at the forefront of the global arms trade?

Here's to more death and destruction!

Here's to more death and destruction!

First minister, Rhodri Morgan, makes no bones of his support for the Welsh war machine. In early February 2009 he was in north Wales offering support to Saygrove Electronics Ltd, which produces missile systems. Two weeks before that he visited Hawker Beechcraft in Broughton, which makes the spy planes that patrol the skies above Afghanistan and Iraq.

And when the announcement of the new military academy at St Athan was made on the steps of the Senedd in 2007, Rhodri and Welsh politicians from all parties were queuing in front of the TV cameras to express their delight at the £14 billion project, hailed as the saviour of the south Wales economy.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, country lawyer turned arms dealer

Ieuan Wyn Jones, country lawyer turned government arms dealer

Now that the academy looks doomed to fail, Rhodri and Ieuan ‘deputy dawg’ Wyn Jones, his Plaid Cymru sidekick and minister for enterprise, innovation and networks, will no doubt be using Aerolink 2009 to push for companies to set up at the ParcAberporth UAV technology park near Aberystwyth, where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as the Hermes 450 made by Israeli firm Elbit Systems, are tested. According to the technology park’s website a ‘generous and comprehensive support structure [is] available to occupiers’. By May 2008 £8.7 million of our money had gone towards making Parc Aberporth one of Europe’s leading military testing centres, attracting not just Israeli UAV manufacturers but many others from around the world.

Mark Norris, head of aerospace and defence, IBW; director of AWF

Mark Norris, head of aerospace and defence, IBW; director of AWF

Making sure Rhodri and Ieuan’s pledges are turned into action is the job of Mark Norris, head of aerospace and defence at International Business Wales (IBW), a government department under the direct supervision of Wyn Jones which offers ‘an unrivalled package of skills, sites and support’ to the arms industry. IBW is a main sponsor of Aerolink 2009 so Mr Norris will, no doubt, be courted by representatives of arms manufacturers from around the world eager for handouts. Yet far from providing the ‘unbiased’ eye of a civil servant out to get the best deal for the taxpayer, Norris is indisputably on the side of the arms industry, demonstrated by the fact that he just happens to be a director of Aerospace Wales Forum Ltd (AWF), a private lobbying company – yet in receipt of public money – run by CEO John Whalley, whose thirty years of experience at BAE Systems, the UK’s premier arms manufacturer, put him and his lobbying outfit at the heart of the Welsh arms industry.

John Whalley, ex-BAE Systems and CEO of Aerospace Wales Forum

John Whalley, ex-BAE Systems and CEO of Aerospace Wales Forum

Politicians and manufacturers would be lost without the research and development (R&D) expertise of Wales’ top universities. Cardiff and Swansea universities have received at least £7 million of public money to help private companies develop their weapons capability. In addition, Bangor and Aberystwyth universities (along with Swansea) got £17 million of taxpayers’ money last year to work on the Tyciant project which aims to develop further UAV technologies.

Getting our children involved in the war effort is the task of John Steele, University of Glamorgan academic, director of AWF and representative of the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC). At a Welsh assembly science policy review meeting in 2005 Mr Steele, in his role as ‘coordinating and implementing a Welsh academic and skills aerospace strategy,’ declared the national curriculum as ‘too prescriptive and too soft’. His solution?  ‘Mathematics, Science and Innovative skills must underpin any future education system’. Fellow AWF director John Whalley’s former employer, BAE Systems, has taken Steele’s words to heart by opening an ‘education’ centre at its Glascoed bomb-making factory where primary school children are promised ‘a unique learning experience to bring the subject of World War 2 to life’.

military academic, AWF director, representative of SBAC

John Steele, military academic, AWF director, SBAC people and management board

Luckily the children can leave the bomb factory and go home at the end of the day. Not so fortunate were air cadets Nikkita Walters and Katie-Jo Davies, the teenage cousins from Gilfach Goch, killed above the skies of St Athan during one of the RAF’s ‘First Flight experiences‘.

            As Rhodri Morgan, Ieuan Wyn Jones, Mark Norris, John Whalley and John Steele cut deals over wine and canapés at Aerolink Wales 2009, dreaming of the world’s biggest and brashest training camp, serving the armies and airforces of the world, we wonder if any of them will pause to remember Nikkita and Katie-Jo…

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Cardiff students determined to continue occupation

On 24 February 2009, Cardiff became the first Welsh university – the 28th in the UK –  to be occupied by students, outraged that their university invests upwards of £200,000 in BAE Systems and General Electric, two of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers and major suppliers of weapons used to kill Palestinians in the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

cardiff-uni-occupation-001Following a well-attended ‘books not bombs’ demonstration, thirty students decided to occupy the Shandon lecture theatre opposite the students union where they are now coming to the end of their second day. Despite the annoying presence of university security guards, who are demanding ID from visitors and trying (but failing) to stop food and drink getting in to the lecture theatre, the students’ spirits are high and they’re adamant that the occupation will continue until their demands are met.

Representing a number of different political groupings, the students have been busy spreading the word, contacting and receiving messages of support from the likes of Naom Chomsky and at 2 pm today they were involved in a video link up with Palestinian students from the Jabaliya district of Gaza.

As usual, the Welsh mainstream media don’t seem to give a toss about covering this important action. And perhaps even more surprising is the lack of support from Cardiff university lecturers. Presumably they’ve been shackled by university bosses eager not to let more damaging information such as Cardiff’s £2.5 million military research programme leak out.

The occupation is more than just a stand off between angry students and a badly-behaved university. ‘Aside from the demands, if we’ve made people more aware, and there are lots of apathetic, disinterested students, then it’s worth it,’ said Becky. ‘This is a great transforming experience,’ added Andy. ‘Many of us never thought we could carry out an occupation. Now we’ve done it, we’re thinking what to do next.’

Cardiff university vice-chancellor, David Grant, has blood on his hands

Cardiff university vice-chancellor, David Grant, has blood on his hands

As negotiations proceed, we appeal to all those who are no longer prepared to see our public institutions hand over money to corporations that kill, to do everything they can to support the occupation. Get yourselves down to the Shandon lecture theatre armed with bags of food (veggie/vegan) and drink or send a message. The students need your support.   

For more information and the very latest on the occupation contact:

www.occupiedcardiff.blogspot.com

cardiffstudentsagainstwar@gmail.com

ALUN CAIRNS RESIGNS AS CHAIR OF ASSEMBLY PENSION FUND TRUSTEES

SOUTH WALES ANARCHISTS CLAIM VICTORY AS YET ANOTHER PENSION FUND SCANDAL EMERGES

 Following our revelations that the welsh arsembly members’ pension fund is being held in companies with appalling environmental and human rights’ records, chair of the pension scheme trustees, Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns has resigned.

another Tory twat bites the dust

another Tory twat bites the dust

End of story? Er, we don’t think so. Mr Cairns isn’t the only villain of the piece. There are, of course, four other trustees representing all the political parties who must have known as much or as little as Mr Cairns. Perhaps the lot of them should come clean and tell us exactly what they’ve been up to during their tenure as trustees? We’ll be sending a freedom of information question to the government requesting details of ‘meetings’ between trustees and Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, the Edinburgh-based partnership that manages members’ pensions. Watch this space, although we’ll probably be met with more porky pies from the freedom of misinformation team at the assembly.

But the story doesn’t end there. We’ve been in touch with the nice freedom of information officer at Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), one of our favourite councils (see Gagged 24 and16) and we’ve learned that, coincidently, of course, Baillie Gifford, along with four other financial companies, manages RCT’s pension fund too! The assembly’s stash of £10.5 million pales into insignificance against RCT’s fund with a membership of 23,000 people. At the end of March 2008 the fund stood at £1.3 billion, with Baillie Gifford Asset Management holding £540 million.

 And, you’ve guessed it, many of the star performers in the arsembly fund feature in RCT’s. We asked specifically about money given to the arms and tobacco industries and were told the breakdown of holdings at 31st March 2007 in aerospace and defence was:

 BAE Systems            £2,908,645

Meggitt                        £3,305,736

Rolls Royce    £6,770,177

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

 

That wouldn’t be the same BAE Systems that supply Israel with parts for F-16 bombers currently being used to murder Palestinians, would it?

 

 

The breakdown of RCT’s holdings in tobacco was:

 British American Tobacco               £  6,252,715

Imperial Tobacco                              £10,838,441

Which, when added up, comes to £13 million to weapons manufactures and £17 million to tobacco barons.

By the end of March 2008 RCT’s investments in the arms trade had fallen to £9 million, following the sales of shares in arms companies including Lockheed Martin, worth £840,000 in 2006, and the sale of nearly £500,000 of shares  in our old friend, Raytheon (see Gagged 25). Investments in tobacco stood at almost £16 million.

Perhaps it’s time for the Pension Panel Members, which include council leader Russell Roberts and councillor Clayton Willis, to step up to the mark and account for their murderous investment decisions.

RCT councillor Roberts

RCT councillor Roberts

                                

RCT councillor Willis

RCT councillor Willis