Saudi Arabia and corruption: Parliament debates

It was the Liberal Democrat Opposition Day in Parliament today (where we get to choose the program) and we had two motions down – the first on the scandal of the dropping of corruption investigations into the BAe arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and the second on our campaign ‘We Can Cut Crime’.

The debate on corruption was clearly a red rag to Labour’s bull (Tough on crime? Only when it suits). The whole issue also embarrasses the Tories deeply – as the original deal was done when they were in power and because of the financial links between their party’s fundraising operation and one of the deal’s middlemen.

The Solicitor-General (Labour) did a very loud and aggressive ‘righteous indignation’ act. How dare the Liberal Democrats imply there was anything wrong.

Well – if you have serious allegations, a long investigation and mounds of evidences – you need to have a pretty darn good reason for not pursuing the case further. No amount of indignation can hide that nor the suspicious timing of events: investigators finally make serious progress, rumours of Saudis switching business to France, investigation dropped.

The Government likes to say it was the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) who made the decision to drop the case – but this is the decision of the Attorney General, and the Prime Minister had certainly made his views clear to the decision makers.

A big difficulty for the Government is that there are now conventions / treaties on bribery and corruption and you are not allowed to use jobs or relations with another state as a reason for dropping such an investigation.

So the Government called on ‘National Security’ in the public interest. Public Interest is a legitimate reason so long as it is really about the security of the nation. We all would abide by that. But hey – this is the Government of the dodgy dossier and WMD and we know that they are capable of misleading the whole country let alone Parliament when they decide that they know best and don’t have to play by the rules. (Though this time the security services have not been willing to let their name be taken in vain by the Government and have refused requests to back key parts of the Government’s case).

The damage Labour have done to our international standing through the war in Iraq and now this dropping of the investigation will come home to roost as our influence in the world declines thanks to an immoral government. And the turning of a blind eye to corruption in many countries in the Middle East is just what fuel violent opposition to those governments– the sort of violent opposition that in turn fuels the very terrorism Labour says we’re at war with.