Clergy criticise the Church over links with British weapons firm

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent Daily Telegraph

(Filed: 26/09/2005)

The Church of England was fending off accusations of hypocrisy from its own clergy last night after it admitted having links with a major British arms manufacturer.

Many of the bishops have criticised the arms trade and the Church Commissioners have a strict policy of avoiding investments in any company producing weapons.

But parishes have been dismayed to find that the mobile telephone aerial company recommended by the Church is part owned by QinetiQ, which develops advanced weapons technology.

One said it felt "severely let down" by the Church because it was in danger of being exposed to "the scandal of a commercial involvement" with a company associated with weapons. However, Church spokesmen insisted that they were not directly investing in arms manufacturers.

They said they had given individual parishes enough information to make their own judgments.

The Archbishops' Council, the Church's managing body, signed an agreement with the telecommunications company Quintel S4 in 2002, giving it "approved status" for mobile phone mast installations in churches.


The partnership was designed to reassure parishes that wanted to earn extra income by hiring out their spires or towers to mobile phone companies but were wary because they lacked the expertise.

The deal gave Quintel S4 access to thousands of parishes which were potential sites for aerials in return for national guidelines over rent and health and safety issues. Despite growing concerns over mobile phone masts, a number of parishes have since hired out their steeples to the company for thousands of pounds a year.

But some appear to have been unaware of the nature of one of Quintel S4's parent companies, and have said it was not made sufficiently clear by the Church.

The Church's website described QinetiQ as "one of Europe's leading science and technology organisations, formed in July 2001 from the majority of the Government's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency."

Another page made clear that the company was "formed from the research laboratories of the Ministry of Defence".

But Fr Martin Hislop, of St Luke's church, Kingston upon Thames, was shocked when he found QinetiQ advertising its expertise in small arms, missile systems and "the electro-thermal chemical gun".

His parish council has written to the Archbishops' Council, demanding that it sever its links with Quintel S4 "in the light of that company's association with the weapons industry".

Fr Hislop accused the Church of "rank hypocrisy".

He said it seemed to be arguing that "if it dealt with a front company, it doesn't matter who owns it".

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Jack Nicholls, also promised to "ask questions".

But Alexander Nicoll, the head of the Church's internal communications, insisted that the Archbishops' Council remained happy with the agreement because the links between it and QinetiQ were "tenuous at best".


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