The York Campaign Against the Arms Trade have been advised to withdraw a petition which they launched against the University over comments about BAE Systems.
The national campaign informed them that the claim made in the preamble of the petition that BAE Systems are ‘“infamous for extensive corruption” was a dangerous one.
It emerged that CAAT had advised them that whilst BAE had been dogged by allegations of corruption, the petition’s preamble could be taken to suggest that they had been convicted of such claims and was therefore potentially libellous.
The petition called for the University to cease accepting any funding from British Aerospace Systems, MBDA, Rolls Royce and QinetiQ for research projects pending further legal advice.
The petition had been signed by over 800 students, after they were contacted by the national Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).However, the National CAAT have refused to comment on the situation.
Alexandra Peck, a campaign coordinator for CAAT York, spoke about the concerns which have been raised in the past about BAE’s business practices.
“BAE often neatly sidesteps corruption allegations. In 2006 Tony Blair quashed the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into BAE’s multi-billion pound deals with Saudi Arabia.”
Peck explained that the petition had been suspended pending further legal advice from the national offices of CAAT, though she said that she expected it to be “permanently withdrawn”.
The petition was launched following a Nouse investigation that revealed the University had received over £4 million in research grants from the arms companies.
Tim Ngwena, YUSU President, said: “The wording on the petition seems to be an issue of semantics and the law which although is serious, shouldn’t take away from the concern that 800 students have shown about the way research funding is obtained. I’m sure this campaign will continue.”
Peck added that she plans to meet with them next week to ensure that similar mistakes are not repeated in the future.
“Whilst the wording of our campaign message will be tweaked it is simply to be clearer about the activities of the arms manufacturers which sponsor research at this university.”
“We decided to stop collecting signatures until we had the opportunity to rewrite it in a clearer format. However, the message will remain the same.”