Drones cast shadow on C of E HQ

26 October 2012

BAE SYSTEMS

Robot: BAE Systems' Mantis unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). UAVs are also known as drones

Robot: BAE Systems' Mantis unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). UAVs are also known as drones

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 Commissioners.

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 insulting."

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 turnover".

Forthcoming Events

16-18 February 2018
Church Times Festival of Faith & Literature

Our literary festival with a theological slant in Bloxham, Oxfordshire. Choose from 37 events including poetry, literature, history, politics, music and drama. Find out more

The Church Times Podcast

The Church Times Podcast, hosted by Tim Wyatt and Ed Thornton, features a mixture of interviews and news analysis. Listen online

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read seven articles each month for free.