Under British Aegis?

The British Government has again denied any involvement in the Aegis Defence Services security contract in Iraq, in a parliamentary reply to Brent East MP Sarah Teather:

Aegis Defence Services

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what information his Department has (a) supplied to and (b) received from the United States Administration regarding that government’s award of the Iraq Reconstruction Security Support Services contract to Aegis Defence Services; [220988]

(2) what discussions there have been between the British and American governments regarding the award of the US Administration’s Iraq Reconstruction Security Support Services’ contract to Aegis Defence Services. [220989]

Mr. Rammell: I refer the hon. Member to the written statement made on 12 July 2004, Official Report, columns 53–54WS, by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in which he stated that

    "the contract in question was awarded by the United States Government. Her Majesty’s Government is not a party to the contract, nor was it involved in any way in its negotiation."

Not a very full anwer to the question, if you ask me, and one which is difficult to square with certain statements made by the Pentagon, when US senators objected to the contract, because of Aegis chief executive Tim Spicer’s role in the Peter McBride case.

"It is significant that the British Ministry of Defense was apprised of our intention to award the contract to Aegis, and did not object to or advise against the action," the head of the US Army Contracting Agency Sandra Sieber said.

"The contracting officer was not aware of the allegations subsequently lodged against Mr. Spicer in the press at the time of the contract award. However, our post-award review of the facts surrounding these matters did not establish that Mr. Spicer’s advocacy on behalf of his former soldiers had any bearing on his or Aegis’ record of integrity or business ethics. I understand that others besides Mr. Spicer, including members of the British government, also advocated for the soldiers’ release from prison. The British government reviewed the case and found in favor of the soldiers’ release. Recently, a British Army review board reinstated the soldiers into the British Army. [not strictly true]"

It seems clear from this that the British Government knew about the Aegis contract, and it looks as if it may have been advising the Americans on Spicer’s record.

There have been claims that the British Government actually lobbied for the contract as a commercial quid pro quo for support in the Iraq War.

If so, that would raise the question of why the British Government was supporting a company whose chief executive had been described as "extremely difficult to pin down and shifty" by Foreign Office officials over his role in the illegal export of arms to Sierra Leone during the Arms to Africa Affair.

At the very least, the British Government was told of the contract and should have made an objection.                                                          







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