CAMPAIGNERS against the arms trade have objected to a conference
in Church House, Westminster, next week, because the conference is
sponsored by companies that make weapons.
The "Chief of the Air Staff's Air Power Conference
2012", organised by the Royal United Services Institute
(RUSI), a think tank, is due to take place at the C of E's national
administrative headquarters next Thursday and Friday. The Defence
Secretary, Philip Hammond, is to give the keynote address.
The event is sponsored by arms companies, including BAE Systems
and General Atomics. Both companies produce unmanned aerial
vehicles (UAVs), known as drones, which attack targets without risk
to the operators. During a protest outside a UAV factory in
Shenstone, Staffordshire, last week, the Bishop of Wolverhampton,
the Rt Revd Clive Gregory, said that UAVs "reduce death to the
level of a computer game" (
News, 19 October).
Symon Hill, associate director of the think tank Ekklesia, who
used to work for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, said: "This
event is sponsored by companies that supply arms to the world's
most oppressive regimes, some of which turned weapons against their
own people during the Arab Spring."
The conference booking was managed by Church House Conference
Centre, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporation of
Church House, the charity that owns and runs the Church House
building on Great Smith Street. The Corporation's website states
that its "business . . . is vested in a Council which includes the
Archbishops of Canterbury and York [and] representatives of
national Church institutions".
The Church House Conference Centre raises money to offset the
running costs of the building by renting out its facilities for
conferences and events. It also lets office space to national C of
E bodies such as the Archbishops' Council and the Church
A statement from the Church House Conference Centre said that it
had its "own set of ethical guidelines as regards bookings" for
conferences. "We have a longstanding relationship with the UK's
armed forces and next week's RUSI conference is in fact the third
in a series this year looking at defence and security issues."
The director of communications for the Archbishops' Council, the
Revd Arun Arora, said: "The RUSI is a long-established think tank,
which deals with issues such as foreign policy, defence, and
security. To suggest that the choice of Church House as a
conference venue by RUSI somehow implicates the Church of England
in supporting arms sales is at best nonsensical and at worst
The C of E's Ethical Investment Advisory Group recommends that C
of E investment bodies, such as the Church Commissioners, do not
invest in companies that manufacture conventional weapons "if
their strategic military supplies exceed ten per cent of