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Human Rights, Politics

Banks, Cluster Bombs and the Rare Argument for more Bureaucracy

After being bailed out by the taxpayer, banks have been spending a lot of time (and money) to try and convince the public that they have a sense of moral and corporate responsibility. Natwest paraded people around the country and built a few cricket pavilions in the mantra of ‘helpful banking’. HSBC scoured the globe in order to become ‘The World’s Local Bank’. At the same time, Amnesty International has revealed that these two banks, as well as Lloyds TSB and Barclays have been investing in companies that manufacture cluster bombs.

The use and manufacture of cluster munitions are banned by the Convention of Cluster Munitions, adopted in 2008 and becoming international law in 2010. But the key sentence of the convention in relation to this blog is in Article 1 where it states that under no circumstances can a State part “Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.” When the convention was adopted into British Law there was no explicit law forbidding funding companies that manufacture cluster bombs thoygh assurances were given to ‘develop the most appropriate and effective measures to end indirect financing’.

It is high time that the premise of assurances was given up. Time and time again institutions and people disregard assurances because they are not binding, from the assurances given regarding tuition fees and bankers bonuses. Even the Prime Minister fell foul of assurances when Andy Coulson told him that he was unaware of the phone hacking that engulfed The News of The World. If the old adage is that rules are made to be broken than it means that the need is for legislation to be unbreakable.

This however is bureaucracy, something that Mr Cameron perceives to be the epitome of all that is wrong with the ‘big government’. Well when it suits him that is. When pressured on whether or not to form a judicial inquiry after the phone hacking scandal and the BSkyB bid his main defence was to hide behind the mantra of ‘due process’, or in other words, bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is an easy target to attack, it is ‘Brussels’, it is ‘health and safety’, it is ‘political correctness gone mad’, it is not fun. It is perhaps the case that one of the easiest reasons to attack bureaucrats is that they are anonymous, mere pencil pushers in sharp suits ruining the fun for everyone.

Bureaucracy is not designed to restrict freedoms but to safeguard them. The reason for rules and regulations are to prevent abuses of systems, be it medical, financial or judicial. Yet loopholes are regularly exploited, from tax evasion to the funding of weapons. The answer is not to remove the walls of red tape but to tighten it, much in the same way that the method to stop benefit fraud is not to dismantle the system but to better police it, the majority should not loose out because of the abuse by a minority. I’d rather have a system that leads to the abuse of benefits than one that allows the abuse of power.

When writing this blog I have to of course consider my choice of moniker. Admittedly I chose the name ‘Red Tape and Picnics’ more because I thought that’d sound cool and trendy rather than have a proper grown up political motive. I hope that it is an interesting juxtaposition, in Levi-Strauss circles I suppose that they’d be considered binary opposites, yet as they sit at the top of my page it is seemingly fitting, law and disorder combined. To continue and close with my picnic analogy I think the point is that you can have your cake and eat it.



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