University Union Accuses UK PM's Standards Advisor of Conflict of Interest Over Former BAE Role

© REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY / Britain's PM Boris Johnson meets Jordan's King Abdullah II, in LondonBritain's PM Boris Johnson meets Jordan's King Abdullah II, in London
Britain's PM Boris Johnson meets Jordan's King Abdullah II, in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.11.2021
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Lord Geidt as his advisor on conflicts of interest by ministers in April this April. In May the former soldier criticised the PM over funding for refurbishments to the PM's official residence above 11 Downing Street, but did not recommend disciplinary action.
Lecturers at a major London university have demanded a probe into PM Boris Johnson's ministerial interests advisor over his is work for an arms firm it claims the college invested in.
The University College Union (UCU) branch at Kings College London (KCL) has written to management urging it to investigate university council chairman Lord Christopher Geidt over his former advisory role to BAE Systems — and demanding he be suspended in the mean time.
The letter, leaked to The Guardian newspaper, alleged that the university had invested in BAE via an intermediary investment fund while Geidt was an advisor to the company from 2016 to April 2020.
The union gave a list of reasons why it was "vital" that "good governance is not only done in deed, but seen and sincere," including "threats" of funding cuts, a proposal to reduce staf pensions by a quarter and rising tuition fees for students.
"We cannot see a prudent course of action except to suspend Geidt from his post pending a full, independent review," the UCU branch insisted.
But the university backed the chair of its governing body, stressing that it did not have any investments in the arms firm.
“These claims of conflicts of interest are simply untrue, as we have robust processes to ensure that investment management decisions are made entirely independently," A KCL spokesperson said.
"Lord Geidt has no involvement with investment management decisions, and no influence over investment policy and strategy. The university does not have any investments in BAE Systems," the university said, adding that all council members declare their interests annually.
"Lord Geidt provides invaluable service to King’s and we have absolute confidence in his continuing stewardship," the spokesperson added.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he walks on Downing Street in London, Britain, August 24, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.11.2021
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Geidt, a non-party affiliated member of the House of Lords, has come under attack from the opposition Labour party over his role as Johnson's independent advisor on ministerial interests.
In May he said the PM had been "unwise" in allowing a private Conservative Party donor to pay for £52,000 in refurbishment costs to the Downing Street flat that houses British leaders above the £30,000 annual allowance, but did not recommend referring the matter to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone.
Labour's former shadow chancellor John McDonnell sought to attack former soldier Geidt at a Parliamentary committee hearing that month over his former connection to the arms firm, raising a $400 million fine it paid in the US in a dispute with the government.
"I placed my reliance in taking on this role on the attitude of the British government, which is active in licensing the activity of BAE Systems," Geidt replied to McDonnell.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "The public will rightly expect the government’s adviser on ministerial interests to be above reproach.”
The PM appointed him to the role in April this year, 12 months after he stopped working for BAe
The UCU has faced criticism recently for not only failing to defend Sussex University lecturer Kathleen Stock from a campaign by students to have her fired for her 'gender-critical' ideas, but making her position untenable by demanding a probe into "transphobia" at the institution.
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