British Legion denies BAE funds

The Royal British Legion has insisted that arms manufacturer BAE Systems has no connection with this year's Poppy Day appeal, although the charity has accepted a donation to pay for the poppy drop at the Festival of Remembrance.

Richard Coltart, head of news at BAE Systems, said the company had already given the donation for the poppy drop this year, as it had done last year, although he refused to say how much was given.

But Russell Thompson, director of marketing and fundraising at the charity, said BAE wasn't sponsoring this year's appeal in any way, he admitted the weapons producer had given the charity money in the past, which it used for "other things".

Thompson told Third Sector: "We don't seek commercial support for the Poppy Day appeal. As the custodian of remembrance for this country, we know how very personal and precious it is to people, so we must be careful how we present it."

The poppy drop is the finale of the Festival of Remembrance, when thousands of poppies will be dropped from the ceiling at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 8 November.

Coltart said this year is the final year of BAE's three-year, £100,000 sponsorship of the British Legion, which was separate from the poppy drop payment. He said the extent of the arms manufacturer's support meant it was a platinum corporate member of the British Legion.

Ann Feltham, a co-ordinator at Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "That is petty cash when it comes to the damage weapons makers cause. It's ironic that a company, which makes millions of pounds in profit from exacerbating war, would pay money to help the victims of its own weaponry, and worse still that the charity is taking this money."

Thompson justified BAE donations in recent years, by saying the charity was grateful for them, like any other corporate support. "BAE Systems bring arms to war, so we recognise that our armed forces have to be provided with the best equipment," he said.

This year's appeal hopes to raise a record £22m and is being assisted by a victim of war for the first time. Anna Aston, whose husband was killed in Iraq in June, is supporting the campaign.

Separately, the charity plans to build an education centre at the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield after it was awarded £250,000 by the Ministry of Defence to run the tribute site for deceased servicemen earlier this month. It also hopes to establish a national memorial for UK soldiers killed in warfare since the end of the Second World War.

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