5th February

The Ethical Dimension

CHAIRMAN: The last time you came before this committee, Sir Richard, you eloquently described some of the practical and ethical issues surrounding the negotiation of defence contracts in certain parts of the world.

WITNESS: I am sure I said nothing about ethics.

CHAIRMAN: Well, it was some time ago.

WITNESS: I reread the transcripts only yesterday. I am quite clear that I did not talk about ethical matters.

CHAIRMAN: Do you not think that there is an ethical dimension to the making and selling of armaments?

WITNESS: There may be an ethical dimension when it comes to the use of armaments. If we are discussing ethics, every country has a right and indeed a responsibility to defend itself, its interests and its citizens against aggressors, would you not agree?

CHAIRMAN: With respect, Sir Richard, we are asking the questions here.

WITNESS: Ask away, but I doubt I can help you with your ethical dimension.

CHAIRMAN: So you don’t see your company’s activities ever being limited by any moral sanctions that you or your Board might choose to impose?

WITNESS: If a man wants to protect his house by installing a burglar alarm, is the man’s morality of any concern to the hardware store where he buys it? I think not.

CHAIRMAN: Surely you are being disingenuous? Would you not agree that a burglar alarm and a gun are two quite different devices? You cannot take a burglar alarm from the house and go down the street and kill somebody with it.

WITNESS: Neither can a gun kill anybody unless somebody fires it. There is no ethical dimension to a gun.

CHAIRMAN: So, in short, you don’t care to whom you sell armaments?

WITNESS: It is not a matter of not caring. We are bound by law. If the law does not allow us to sell armaments to certain countries or in certain circumstances, then we do not sell them. Your ethical dimension is covered by statute and by government policy. Do not look to me for moral guidance on this issue. Look to yourselves.

CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Sir Richard. We appreciate your giving up your valuable time to be here.

WITNESS: You are very welcome.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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