Here are the full responses from Britain’s top banks to our report on cluster bombs
‘HSBC has had a Defence Equipment Policy since 2000, whereby we do not provide financial services either for weapons or for companies primarily involved in the manufacture or sale of weapons. In February 2010 we updated the policy to specifically exclude business with companies with any involvement at all with cluster bombs or anti-personnel mines. These weapons are considered indiscriminate due to their ability to maim and kill civilians. We were assisted in our policy review by discussions with both Amnesty International and the Cluster Munition Coalition.
‘The HSBC examples quoted in the Worldwide Investment in Cluster Munitions report pre-date our policy, while the policy explains that, if we decide to exit a relationship, this may take some time if, for example, a loan is outstanding. Our wording on cluster bombs resulted in the report now listing HSBC in its Hall of Fame and we also understand that Amnesty International uses HSBC as a positive example of its engagement on cluster bombs.’
‘The RBS Group recognises the very serious issues surrounding the production and use of cluster munitions. RBS has followed the international governmental initiative to ban the use of cluster munitions closely, and reviewed the resulting United Nations’ Convention in detail. As a result, the Group has updated its defence sector position to clearly state that RBS will not knowingly support any application for funding or financial services worldwide that directly contravenes this Convention.
‘We do not invest in cluster munitions and do not recognise the claims made in the IKV Pax Christi report. This is a serious issue and we have engaged with the writers of the report to understand these allegations. Our policy, including definitions, in respect of cluster munitions is based on the Convention on Cluster Munitions which came into force in August 2010.
‘RBS does not comment on matters pertaining to our clients as this is governed by statutory and contractual confidentiality obligations. However, we have a solid internal process in place for assessing our clients’ activities against a range of RBS position statements and policies. Through that process, we have received assurances from our defence sector clients that they are not in breach of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.’
Chris Atkins, who made the documentary asked RBS’s spokesperson specific questions on the allegations in the report. They replied:
Just to clarify “we do not invest in companies who produce cluster munitions”.
‘Barclays Group provides financial services to the defence sector within a specific policy framework. It is our policy not to finance trade in nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction. Our policy also explicitly prohibits financing trade in landmines, cluster bombs or any equipment designed to be used as an instrument of torture.
‘Barclays is aware of the objectives of the international Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has been ratified by the UK Government via the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act, and this informs our ongoing policy development and internal guidance to colleagues.
‘And by way of further background, here is our full policy:
Defence Sector Policy Statement
Barclays Group aims to ensure that we will not finance defence exports that are used by foreign authorities either to oppress their own populations or to support unjustified external aggression. Barclays explicitly prohibits the provision of finance for any purpose where the known application of funds relates directly to the manufacture of, or trade in:
· Nuclear weapons;
· Chemical weapons;
· Biological or other weapons of mass destruction;
· Cluster bombs; and
· Any equipment designed to be used as an instrument of torture
Barclays provides financial services to the defence sector only within a specific policy framework which requires the careful evaluation of business relationships and transactions by management. Barclays only participates in transactions that conform, as a minimum, to the stronger of regulations in either the country of operation or the UK. We assess each proposal on a case-by-case basis and legal compliance alone does not automatically guarantee our support. Where a potential transaction may be outside of this framework, the details are escalated to senior management for consideration and review. Key considerations in our assessment process include:
- The status of the manufacturer or exporter and the destination country;
- The nature of the equipment and end-user;
- Likely use;
- The potential for on-selling; and
- Where exports of defence equipment may be considered inappropriate on the grounds of indebtedness eg. to heavily indebted poor countries.
Barclays is aware of the objectives of the international Convention on Cluster Munitions, which has been ratified by the UK Government via the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Act, and this informs our ongoing policy development and internal guidance to colleagues.’
Chris then asked Barclay’s spokesperson about specific allegations in the report. Here is their response:
‘The report is correct. We still have a relationship with Textron, but the key point is that we do not provide the company with finance directly for the manufacturing of cluster bombs or related products. Therefore we are not in breach of our own policy.
‘In common with all banks, it is our policy not to comment specific customers and we would not confirm whether a specific company is a customer of the bank. We are committed to running our businesses with the highest levels of integrity and complying with our legal and regulatory obligations across all areas of our operations.
‘Lloyds does not knowingly provide bank finance to support the manufacture of any weaponry that breaches UK, US, EU legislation or UN directives, or weapons which have been outlawed by International Treaty – including anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.’