Be careful what you wish for

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At last year's BiCon, a long motion about the evils of working in financial partnership with arms companies in particular was referred back to this year's event. It re-appeared this year, word for word I think, apart from being split into two pieces.

The first one, "Organisers should take into account the principles outlined in [the BiCon Guidelines' section on access and anti discrimination issues] when working in financial partnership with external bodies…" was almost entirely uncontroversial.

The second one, which includes "no financial partnerships should be entered into with arms companies or armed forces" was what caused the referral back and, again, wasn't.

It still passed though, and the mover has been busy with press releases about this. This seems to have resulted in the the only mention of BiCon in PinkNews* apart from two articles in 2010!

My main problem with it is that it does not give a definition of what an "arms company" is. Deliberately so, according to the mover.

What they seemed to be suggesting organisers do is get a copy of the accounts of any organisation they're dealing with and see if at least 10% of their turnover was to do with the arms trade.

Fuck that, even before you open the can of worms of what is included in the arms trade. You have to be quite big as a company before you have to tell Companies House anything like the level of detail that would be necessary. Smaller companies, like Continuity, can submit accounts that are literally five lines long. Good luck in seeing if it's part of the arms trade from that.**

Fortunately, unlike the Peace Pledge Union, the Campaign Against Arms Trade website has a list of 409 organisations it reckons are arms companies. It takes a lot of clicks and scrolls to show it all, because it will only add ten at a time to the list.

It is also not in any obvious order. From number 228, A&G Precision and Sons, it's in alphabetical order, but before then, apart from having BAE Systems – the company with the fourth biggest turnover for its military products in the world outside China – at the top, I struggle to see how they're ordered. Lockheed Martin, the biggest, is 85th in the list. Raytheon, the third biggest, is 55th. I've no idea what the second biggest is, because it's not identified on the list despite the way it has to have done more than $24 billion dollars worth of arms sales.***

You can't sort this by anything, including 'percentage of company turnover from arms sales' or 'number of deaths caused by their products' or… I wonder if it's just to make it harder to see what you have to do to be on it. Twenty five minutes drive from this year's BiCon, A&G Precision and Sons make parts for F1 cars as well as for military planes and drones.

There are some where it's obvious: the Atomic Weapons Establishment and assorted other makers of things that have no civilian use, for example. Looking for some household names, Rolls Royce is there (they supply engines to more than civil aviation). Panasonic is on the list because they market their toughened laptops and tablets to the military.

So are Serco and Capita, because both have Ministry of Defence contracts. Now, there are good reasons to think Crapita is evil, but is it now, as far as we're concerned, an arms company by being part of the arms trade? If not, why not, given that the leading pressure group in the field say that it is?

Oh, and what's now the Dutch 'Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy' is just as arguably banned – they seem to have attended one arms fair at some point in the past couple of decades – from supporting us. Not that, like the rest of the list, it had shown any signs of doing so.

* In case you haven't heard of them, "PinkNews stands for the fundamental rights of the entire LGBT+ community and its allies" (emphasis mine) but just doesn't mention some of us very often. Oh, they also had someone from BAE Systems as a judge for their first awards.

** To save you time, it isn't. The directors and trustees hardly ever even argue.

*** Ah, it's Boeing, yet another company that has a mixed civilian / military product line. Number 80 on the CAAT list.

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