On Tuesday 21 February 2012, Barry addressed Parliament about ways to make sure the environment is not harmed during the events of the London Olympics, continuing the campaign against the involvement of Dow Chemicals in London 2012.
Barry is committed to raising awareness in Parliament regarding Dow Chemical's involvement to India's Bhopas gas disaster in 1984, which killed more than 15,000 people. The US firm was awarded the £7m contract to provide the decorative wrap for London's Olympic Stadium, despite continuing criticism of its involvement to India's Bjopas gas disaster in 1984.
A full text of Barry's speech can be found here:
Right at the start of this debate let the minister and I make common cause to applaud much of the work done by the Olympic Delivery Authority in achieving so much of LOCOG's vision of an Olympics that respects sustainability. I want to praise LOCOG for becoming the first Games Organising Committee to be certified to the BS 8901 Specification for a Sustainability Management Systems for Events. I recognise that the Olympic Delivery Authority for London 2012 is creating venues, facilities and infrastructure that will leave a lasting social, economic and environmental legacy for London and the UK, while minimising any other adverse impacts during the design and construction of the Olympic Park, venues, infrastructure and housing.
The creation of new infrastructure, sporting facilities and housing in an area currently experiencing high levels of deprivation will help to create neighbourhoods and vibrant places after the Games are over, where people will want to live and work. Communities are being reconnected by the building of more than 30 bridges across the waterways, railways and roads that currently divide the Olympic Park area. All this is good.
The ODA has also sought to minimize carbon emissions associated with the development and to optimize efficient water use. Indeed, much of the construction materials have been brought on site by barge via Prescott lock to reduce road traffic congestion. To reduce the risk of flooding in the Lea River valley 100 hectares of new green space has been created and the Olympic Delivery Authority has worked with the construction industry to help source environmentally friendly and ethically produced materials that to build a low carbon construction footprint. Even the rubbish and waste has been thought through; a contractor has been engaged specifically to compact and transport waste by barge from site, 90 per cent of which will be recycled or reused. For all of this John Armitt the Chairman and Dennis Hone the Chief Executive of the ODA deserve the thanks and praise of parliament.
Regarding the site itself, the ODA has spent in excess of £1.8 million cleaning up the toxic legacy of chemical contamination that blighted this area. The remediation of the site has brought this land back into public use and has been a wonderful focus to improve the environment and the quality of life for people in this part of London.
What an irony then that this most sustainable of all Olympic Games should embrace as one of its key sponsors a company whose name is inextricably linked with the worst chemical disaster in human history. A company that owns the Union Carbide Corporation that was responsible for up to 25,000 deaths that have been directly associated with the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in India. This is a company that has to this day failed to remediate the site to the point where the water table is now so contaminated that children in Bhopal are born with deformities at ten times the rate elsewhere in India.
In this debate I will claim that Dow Chemicals which owns Union Carbide Corporation, has failed to live up to the high corporate social responsibility standards that are supposed to characterize the Olympic Movement across the globe, and to characterize these London Games in particular: Standards that Lord Coe the Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) referred to in his evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee as ethical, social and environmental.
Indeed, like him, let me quote from the Sustainable Sourcing Code that LOCOG has published. It says: "Sustainability is one of a number of core elements which together represent what value for money means to LOCOG. As a result it will place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when procuring products and services for the Games. This means we want to do business with responsible suppliers and licensees; companies who treat their staff and sub-contractors well, who understand the nature of the products and materials they are supplying, and who recognise their responsibility to protect the environment and foster good relations with their local communities."
The Minister stands here today to respond to this debate on behalf of the Secretary of State, who is after all the Chair of the Olympic Board. And with reference to The Sustainable Sourcing Code I want to challenge the minister to justify three distinct areas concerning the appointment of Dow Chemicals Ltd as a sponsor of the London Olympics.
First: the propriety of the Procurement Process itself.
Second: Dow's legal responsibility for Union Carbide and the consequences of the Bhopal Tragedy.
Finally : wider ethical concerns about Dow's practice as a company and its suitability as a sponsor.
I want to be sure that the Minister does not have any grounds to think I may have misled him in any way. So I would ask him at any stage to intervene on me if he thinks that I have misrepresented the facts surrounding the case. If he does not then I will assume that, although he may disagree with the conclusions I draw, he nonetheless accepts the facts as I have stated them.
First then I will raise my concerns about the chronology, openness and transparency of the Olympic wrap procurement process. It is my understanding that just three months after Dow was confirmed as an official partner of the International Olympic Committee, LOCOG chose the Olympic Stadium wrap as one of the areas of the Olympic budget to be cut.
Now I accept that this was a perfectly proper response to the Spending Review; however, reports from LOCOG at the time put the estimated savings from the Wrap at seven million pounds. It was also reported at the time by the tenacious Sunday Express Journalist, Ted Jeory, that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports, had been informed that finding a private sector partner for the wrap was highly likely.
We now know from Architen Landrell, a UK company based in Chepstow, that they had been appointed under a tier 3 contract by Sir Robert McAlpine, the main contractor for the stadium construction. They had been asked to produce eight test panels and to give a final costing for the stadium wrap, which they did at a price of approximately £1.5million.
Two questions arise out of this:
Why did the Secretary of State believe that it was highly likely that a private sponsor would be found for the stadium wrap?
Why was the figure of £7million given to the media as the projected saving, when the actual saving was known to be only £1.5million?
On February the 8th 2011 it was reported that the tendering process for a company to sponsor the Wrap would go ahead, with expressions of interest due by February 18th. Clearly this was an extraordinarily short period of time in which to source a major supplier. The public might consider it inconceivable that only 10 days were allowed for such a major tender, unless there had been clear and ongoing discussions with potential partners prior to the announcement.
In a recent response to a written question to the department I was told that the shortest period of time DCMS had allowed in the previous 12 months for any tender where the contractor would be paid over £1million was 28 days. Yet LOCOG allowed only 10 days for someone to bid to pay a sum publicly estimated at £7million to sponsor the wrap.
Does the Minister think that LOCOG would have set the tender window at a mere 10days if Dow Chemicals Ltd had not already been lined up as a sponsor?
In his letter to GLA Member Darren Johnson, Lord Coe said that government took the decision to ditch the wrap in order to achieve the announced saving.
This prompts several further questions:
What discussions did DCMS, ODA and LOCOG have about the decision to put the wrap up for sponsorship?
Did the International Olympic Committee put any pressure on LOCOG to provide a niche for DOW as a sponsor of the London Games?
If the government simply wanted to achieve savings over the original budget, why did it not press on with the Architen Landrell wrap which would have shown a saving of £5.5million against the original budget and given the project to a British company?
The ODA Procurement Policy for the Olympics states:
"As a public body the ODA is required to operate in the procurement framework set out by European Union Procurement Legislation and UK Regulations."
Was this the reason that the procurement of the wrap was passed from ODA to LOCOG – because LOCOG is not a public but a private body and therefore was not obliged to follow the standard EU and UK Procurement rules?
Another company, the Nottingham Textile Company are adamant that they submitted an expression of interest before the deadline on February 18th. They heard nothing for a long time and eventually inquired why they had received no response. This company was told by LOCOG that their submission had been "too late".
Will the Minister undertake to check the date on which Nottigham Textile Company's submission was received by LOCOG and whether it was in time or not?
Let me be clear. I believe that the government quite properly wished to achieve savings in the cost of the Olympic Games. I also believe that Dow Chemicals was putting pressure on the IOC to find a way for it to become a key sponsor with "sector exclusive marketing rights" for the London Games. I believe that LOCOG wished to assist the IOC in this endeavour and therefore suggested that £7million could be saved by taking the wrap away from Architen Landrell and procuring it under a sponsorship deal from Dow. I believe the government knew that a sponsorship deal was being negotiated and were content to collude with the IOC and LOCOG to facilitate a major IOC sponsor and to pretend to the public that in doing so they were achieving a saving of £7million. In short the procurement process was rigged in favour of Dow Chemicals. It was a sham.
Sadly LOCOG is a private organisation that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. On the 18th of December Last year I wrote to Lord Coe as Chairman of LOCOG asking many of the above questions and many more. To date he has not seen fit to answer them.
When asked on the 24th of January this year, in the Select Committee, whether he thought it "appropriate for London 2012 to be so closely associated with a company like Dow Chemicals?" the Secretary of State replied: "Obviously it is a decision for LOCOG, but it is a decision that, as a result of the controversy that we had last autumn, I looked into very carefully. After looking at it very carefully I wholeheartedly supported the decisions that LOCOG had taken".
The Secretary of State went on to justify Dow's involvement saying "they did not own Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal disaster in 1985" – in fact it was 1984, but this was perhaps just a simple slip of the tongue – "nor at the time of a final settlement with the Indian Government in 1989 – that has been upheld three times in the Indian Supreme Court – makes me confident that it was a very reasonable decision."
Many commentators have found frankly astonishing that LOCOG and the Secretary of State both seem to have taken Dow's claims in relation to these cases at face value and repeated their press lines verbatim.
Surely the Secretary of State knows that when you purchase a company, you purchase both its assets and its liabilities.
So before the Minister repeats his Secretary of State's evidence to the Select Committee where he opined of Bhopal: "I do not believe that Dow were responsible and I think we should support them as a company", let me ask the Minister:
Whether he is aware that Dow's wholly owned subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation is wanted by courts in India on criminal charges of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder"?
Because UCC is considered to be a fugitive from justice in India and because Dow wholly owns UCC, but has not produced UCC in court, I understand from legal advice that I have taken, that this puts Dow in the position of "sheltering a fugitive from justice". Does the ministers own legal advice concur with this?
Is the Minister aware that Dow Chemicals itself is a named respondent in public interest litigation in the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking remediation of the abandoned Union Carbide factory site?
Is he aware that Dow is a named respondent in a forthcoming curative petition in India's Supreme Court that aims to address the inadequacies of the 1989 civil settlement made by Union Carbide of $470million -- a figure that equated to approximately $600 per victim?
By some ironic coincidence the hearings on petition were granted on the 28th of February 2011, the same day as the sponsorship contract closed, by a five judge bench that included India's Chief Justice.
Union Carbide is also subject to a civil action in the Southern District Court of New York. This action relates to the ongoing contamination in Bhopal of chemical dumping by the company in and around the factory. Significantly the US Court accepts that this is a distinct case from the 1984 disaster and that it has not been dealt with under any pre-existing settlement. In New York, Dow's wholly owned subsidiary UCC has pleaded that only the Indian Courts can order it to remediate the site. But In India both Dow and UCC have pleaded that the Indian Courts have no jurisdiction over them.
Dow have consistently claimed to the Indian Authorities that Dow and UCC are independent entities and on these grounds have claimed Dow should be held immune from prosecution in relation to the Bhopal disaster. Documents made public in The Independent Newspaper two weeks ago however, have revealed that Dow Chemicals secretly traded through a network of intermediaries in order to avoid a legal ban imposed on the sale of UCC products in India that was imposed after the Bhopal tragedy. The documents prove that far from being a separate company, Dow Chemicals controlled and manipulated its wholly owned subsidiary, setting prices and setting up supply chains to secure profits for Union Carbide product in India that were illegal.
As Tim Edwards from the Bhopal Medical Appeal said "these documents show Dow shielding UCC and obstructing justice. If however, Dow is also misrepresenting its relationship with UCC, then it is obstructing justice and shielding itself from trial. Either way, LOCOG's insistence that Dow is a fit sponsor for Britain's Olympics appears perverse."
In a letter addressed to IOC President Jacques Rogge, a copy of which was sent to Lord Coe, VK Malhotra, Acting President of Indian Olympic Authority, stressed that there were active court cases against Dow. He said:
"A false campaign has been launched by the DOW Chemical's saying that the matter has been settled. It is not correct. The case is still pending in the court and no final compensation has been made"
Why have LOCOG and the government chosen to believe Dow Chemicals over the Acting President of the Indian Olympic Authority?
Let me repeat the words of LOCOG's Sustainability Code:
This means we want to do business with responsible suppliers and licensees; companies who treat their staff and sub-contractors well, who understand the nature of the products and materials they are supplying, and who recognise their responsibility to protect the environment and foster good relations with their local communities."
When it awarded the sponsorship contract to Dow was LOCOG aware of the pending criminal charges for culpable homicide against Dow's fully-owned subsidiary UCC in the Bhopal criminal court?
Was LOCOG aware that Dow's fully-owned subsidiary UCC was declared by the Bhopal criminal court as an "absconder from justice" in 1992, and that the company remains an absconder from justice to this day?
Was LOCOG aware that Dow was summoned by the Bhopal criminal court on 6 January 2005 to explain why it should not be asked to produce its fully owned subsidiary in court and that Dow has failed to submit the requested explanation?
Was LOCOG aware that Dow is a party to a Public Interest Litigation suit in India concerning clean up and environmental rehabilitation of UCC's factory site?
If LOCOG was aware of the above issues, how were these considered in the decision-making process as to Dow's suitability as a partner for London 2012 on ethical, social and environmental grounds?
Did LOCOG seek any further legal or other advice in relation to the issues mentioned above, other than that given by Dow or its representatives?
Last month the procurement process and the Dow Sponsorship deal suffered its biggest blow to date. Meredith Alexander one of the 12 sustainability Commissiners resigned in protest over what she believes was the airbrushing of Dow out of Bhopal and into the Olympics. She made her case as follows:
"In 2010, the International Olympic Committee appointed Dow as an international sponsor for the Games. This decision was taken in Geneva, and the commission had no ability to take a stand. Then last year, Locog, the London Games organiser, invited companies to tender for a major contract to provide a wrap for the main Olympic stadium. Dow won this bidding process. Many groups and individuals raised questions and finally the commission was asked to investigate.
I was shocked to see that the result of our investigation was a public statement from the commission that essentially portrays Dow a responsible company. I had been providing information about Bhopal to commission members and I was stunned that it publicly repeated Dow's line that it bears no responsibility for Bhopal.
I did everything I could to get the statement corrected or retracted. When it became apparent that this would not happen, I realised that the only way to ensure that my name was not used to justify Dow's position was to resign. And the only way to ensure that the victims' side of the story was told was to do so in public."
She goes on to conclude:
"I would like to see Dow take responsibility for the Bhopal tragedy and finally ensure that real justice is achieved for the victims and the families of those who died. This would be a true Olympic legacy."
Finally I turn to the wider issues regarding Dow's reputational and ethical suitability to be an Olympic partner
In the Olympic Delivery authority Guidlines on Procurement Policy it says about Ethical sourcing
"The ODA will seek to work with suppliers who have a good track record in human rights and who use goods and materials that have been produced 'ethically'. This includes seeking suppliers who operate within the laws of their country and who do not have discriminatory practices."
Bearing this in mind, it is difficult to see how LOCOG could justify appointing Dow as a sponsor given the other facts that were known at the time about the company and its wider regard for law and regulation. The key facts are these:
• In February 2007 The Securities and Exchange Commission in New York imposed a Cease and Desist Order on Dow Chemicals for its "Improper Payment Practice and Improper Accounting" relating to the Central Insecticides Board of India and the company's corruption of officials.
• In September 2010 Dow were blacklisted by the Indian Government for bribing officials in order to fast track licensing of the chemical Dursban that had been found to be dangerous to human health in the USA.
• A report by Innovest indicates that Dow failed to disclose in statements to investors its $2 million settlement of a consumer fraud lawsuit brought by the New York State Attorney General in 2003. The payment, which set the record for a consumer pesticides suit, settled charges that Dow had falsely advertised Dursban as safe, when it is believed to be associated with illness in thousands of exposed people, including potential neurological damage to children. Dow had previously been fined approximately $730,000 for failing to disclose adverse effects associated with the use of and exposure to Dursban.
• Since then earlier this month, Dow Chemicals lost its bid to overturn anti-trust fines totalling in excess of 25Million Euros imposed by the European Union for its part in colluding to fix prices of chloroprene rubber
• And just last week Dow was penalised and heavily fined for "underestimating" the greenhouse gas emissions from its Grangemouth plant in Scotland
What is perhaps most incredible is that the Chairman of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 Shaun McCarthy has gone on record as saying "Locog carried out its due diligence exercise with regard to reputation risk in relation to this procurement. At the time, when the bids were being considered in early 2011 Locog found no current media, political or NGO commentary that would gives cause for concern." As ever Meredith Alexander makes the best riposte: she said "Even a twelve year old could have found them".
The Minister is not a twelve year old. And he knows that the public are not naive either. He must not reply with a speech that is long on examples of sustainability and good practice but short on answers to the questions that I have posed about Dow. That would be cowardly. Because in order to assist the Minister in preparing for this debate I sent through to his office all of the questions that I would be raising so that he could come to the House prepared. Today he should have the courage to stand up and accept that Dow is not a fit and proper company to be a sponsor of the most sustainable Olympic Games ever staged. If he does that everyone would accept that although a mistake had been made, the government had the determination to put it right. If he does not he must accept that a cloud will hang over the London Games. They will be tainted by a sham procurement process and a sponsor that has shown it is contemptuous of the law, defiant of regulations, willing to engage in bribery and corrupt practices but indifferent to the continuing suffering of thousands of human beings