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Banking on Bloodshed: UK high street banks’ complicity in the arms trade

War on Want has just released a new report on the financing of uranium weapon and cluster bomb manufacturers by UK banks. It adds to the data released by ICBUW last year that found that RBS and Barclays invested in DU. You can now add HSBC and Lloyds to that list.
31 October 2008 - ICBUW

War on Want logo The arms trade provides the destructive hardware used in conflicts across the world. It undermines development, contributing to the poverty and suffering of millions. A new report by War on Want, Banking on Bloodshed: UK high street banks’ complicity in the arms trade has exposed, for the first time, the extent to which the five main British high street banks are funding this violent trade.

High street banks are using our money to fund companies that sell arms used against civilians in wars across the world, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are financing an industry that sells arms to countries committing human rights abuses such as Israel, Colombia and Saudi Arabia. Money from our savings and current accounts is being used to fund companies that produce pernicious weapons like depleted uranium and cluster bombs.

As a result of the financial crisis there are now unprecedented calls for regulation of the banking sector. War on Want is calling on the government to ensure that all banks are made to publish the full details of their loans, holdings and other banking services to the arms trade. The government must also introduce regulation which prevents high street banks from supporting the arms trade.

The digested read...
Barclays:
• Holds, by far , the largest amount of shares in the global arms
sector , with £7.3 billion invested in total.
• Ranks amongst the top 10 largest investors in US arms
companies.
• Serves as principal banker for three arms companies:VT
Group, Cobham and Meggitt.
• Has been part of 50 syndicated loans to the arms sector
over the last 10 years and has invested in and gives loans to
companies that produce cluster munitions and depleted
uranium munitions.

HSBC:
• Holds shares in the global arms industry totalling £450.6
million.
• Serves as principal banker to two arms companies: BAE
Systems and Meggitt.
• Has been part of 43 syndicated loans to the arms sector
over the last 10 years worth £27.1 billion and has invested in
and gives loans to companies that produce cluster munitions
and depleted uranium munitions.

Royal Bank of Scotland:
• Holds shares in the UK arms sector totalling £36.4 million.
• Serves as principal banker to four arms companies: BAE
Systems, Rolls Royce, Babcock and Ultra Electronic.
• Ranks as the world’s leading creditor to the arms sector ,
having participated in 52 deals over the last 10 years worth
£44.6 billion, including loans to producers of cluster
munitions and depleted uranium munitions.

Lloyds TSB:
• Holds shares in the UK arms sector totalling £717.5 million.
• Serves as principal banker to BAE Systems and QinetiQ.
• Has been part of 40 syndicated loans to the arms sector
over the last 10 years worth £33.3 billion, including loans to
producers of cluster munitions and depleted uranium
munitions.

Halifax Bank of Scotland:
• Holds shares in the UK arms sector totalling £483.4 million.
• Serves as principal banker to two arms companies: Babcock
and Chemring.
• Has been part of six syndicated loans to the arms sector
over the last 10 years worth £1.2 billion.

Most high street banks are violating their own corporate social responsibility (CSR) statements. As the evidence in this report demonstrates, CSR as a voluntary approach to good practice cannot make companies accountable for their actions. For instance, there is an irreconcilable contradiction between Royal Bank of Scotland’s stated commitment to human rights and sustainable development and its support for the arms industry.

In addition, the sheer scale of Barclays’s investments in arms companies’ shares contradicts its stated concerns for sustainable development and human rights. One bank has gone much further than just producing a CSR report. HSBC has since 2000 publicly stated its commitment to “avoid certain types of business, such as financing weapons manufacture and sales” and to have had that policy “fully in place” since 2006. However , since 2000 there has been no significant downward trend in HSBC lending to the arms sector .

In fact, there was a major rise in HSBC’s lending in 2005. This report will begin with an overview of the global arms trade and the cost of war to the poorest people in the world. It will then expose for the first time the different ways that UK high street banks use our money to finance the arms industry.We will then contrast the hypocrisy of the ethical claims made by the banks and the unseen reality of their investments. Finally, War onWant will show how we can take action to stop account holders’ money from being used to fuel conflict, poverty and human rights abuses across the world.

Notes:

War on Want's Corporations and Conflict campaign:
http://www.waronwant.org/Making+a+Killing%3A+Corporations%2C+Conflict+%26+Poverty+13202.twl

Attachments

  • Banking on Bloodshed

    1391 Kb - Format pdf
    War on Want
    In this report War on Want exposes the extent of the UK banking industry’s complicity in the arms trade. Databases uncovered byWar onWant reveal for the first time the billions of pounds of customers’ money that high street banks use to finance the production of weapons. The arms industry sells products designed to maim or kill human beings or destroy a country’s assets and infrastructure. This industry fuels war and poverty and undermines development worldwide, contributing to the suffering of millions.