'Unacceptable': cluster bomb investment

September 01, 2011, 5:01 PM GMT+0

Despite the UK passing a law to ban the production and sale of cluster munitions within our borders, it is still legal for banks to invest in companies which produce these weapons in countries which have not yet banned them. Our recent poll finds that the British public would support a law to outlaw this practice.

Cluster munitions are weapons which are made up of multiple explosive bomblets which can spread across a large area. There are two main criticisms of this form of weapon; firstly, that they have a widespread dispersal range and cannot distinguish between civilian and military targets; and secondly, that the unexploded ordnance from cluster munitions can remain in the ground for decades, which both threatens the lives of civilians and hampers post-conflict reconstruction.

More than 90 countries signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008 including the UK. This prohibits the use, development, production, stockpiling, retention and transfer of cluster munitions and the UK has since ratified this convention into UK law.

However despite this ban on the production and sale of cluster bombs, UK high street banks can still legally invest - by making loans to, offering banking services to, or holding shares in companies which produce them.

A new YouGov poll for Amnesty International has found that there is strong support among the British public for a law to ban any investment in companies which produce cluster bombs. The poll has found that 67% would support a law to ban this type of investment, whilst only 14% would oppose it.

Despite allegations that a number of well-known UK high street banks conduct this sort of investment, only 14% of the British public were aware that this type of investment occurs.

The poll found that there was even stronger support for a ban on Government controlled banks investing in these companies. The Royal Bank of Scotland is one of the British banks that has been accused of making loans to and providing banking services to companies that make cluster bombs. The survey found that nearly 8 in 10 people think that RBS, in which the Government has the controlling stake in, should not be allowed to invest in companies which produce cluster bombs. Only 9% thought that they should be allowed to invest.

The results of the poll show clearly that the British public think this type of investment in unacceptable and that they would support a law to ban this practice.