Allegations of bribery by DSO
22. One matter from an earlier report by the Quadripartite
Committee resurfaced. In response to reports in the Guardian,
in July 2003 the Ministry of Defence supplied the Committee with
a memorandum refuting allegations that bribes had been paid by
the Defence Sales Organisation (DSO, the predecessor of Defence
Export Services Organisation, DESO) to obtain defence contracts.
In a memorandum to us the Campaign Against Arms Trade alleged
that the "Committee was seriously misled by the MoD in its
Subsequently, a number of allegations appeared in the media
quoting a former defence minister in the 1970s as saying that
the UK had bribed senior Saudi officials to secure arms contracts.
It was reported that the allegations had been supported by documents
available at the National Archives.
23. We put the allegations to the MoD, which responded
on 11 July 2006:
The facts given to the Committee in that MOD Memorandum
were accurate, both as they related to the practices of the DESO
at that time and, from the records we have identified, in relation
to practices at earlier times. The MOD rejects any suggestion
that it was intended to mislead. The Memorandum addressed specific
allegations by the Guardian newspaper and answered the
Committee's questions in terms that we continue to believe are
accurate. The Department does not have any specific comment on
the reported recollections of Lord Gilmour and Lord Healey in
respect of their understanding of the way agents were employed,
and commissions were paid, at these times, nor on CAAT's interpretation
of the documents it quotes in its memorandum.
The Government takes the control of defence exports,
and the behaviour of British companies and individuals involved
in this area, very seriously. Staff of the Defence Export Services
Organisation are under instruction to report any action which
might be a cause for concern in relation to the law of the UK
or of the country with which business is being done.
24. Because of the constraint of time we have
not considered in detail the contentions concerning the accuracy
of the MoD's 2003 memorandum refuting allegations that bribes
had been paid by the Defence Sales Organisation and we conclude
that we should consider the issue further next session.