BAE Systems: Al Yamamah Contract

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:35 pm on 14th December 2006.

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Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers) 5:35 pm, 14th December 2006

My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Lord about the importance of taking steps to prevent corruption in significant international trades, including the arms trade. The noble Lord asked me what steps will be taken as a result of this case. I will need to write to him about that. I am not in a position to answer that today, given that the event has just occurred as we speak.

The noble Lord's point comes back to the same basic point that other noble Lords have raised, which is that it is a very difficult issue. It is necessary to balance the strong public interest in the rule of law and in prosecuting crime, including international corruption, but not with national economic interest. There has been a certain amount in the press about particular economic interests. Those are not, as is made clear in the Statement, the reason for the decision. Whether contracts are going to be placed is not balanced in the decision. It is a question of national security and intelligence, given the particular relationships that there are between this country and Saudi Arabia in relation to that.

I hope noble Lords will understand that, as I said at the end of my Statement, I have to be somewhat cautious about what I say publicly to avoid by what I say doing damage to the wider public interest myself.