Transparency urged over arms firms

More than 3,500 senior military officers and Ministry of Defence (MoD) staff have moved into arms firms in the past 16 years, according to figures compiled by The Guardian.

In 2011/12, some 231 private sector defence jobs were awarded to ex-MoD officials and officers - more than twice as many as the 101 in the previous year, the newspaper said.

Since January another 93 have been given approval under business appointment rules for former staff, bringing up a total of 3,572 since 1996. The figures were compiled from freedom of information requests.

Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, called for greater transparency and accountability over moves between the public and private sector. He said the current Advisory Body on Business Appointments (ACOBA) was inadequate.

"The ACOBA is merely advisory and it will not do," he told The Guardian. "There is no way that the present arrangements provide the reassurance to the public, or protection to anyone that might be crossing from the public sector to the private sector."

The figures were published after a number of ex-military chiefs were exposed at the weekend over claims they could exert influence on serving ministers and officials on behalf of arms firms.

The disclosures following a Sunday Times sting prompted Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to warn that if an MoD inquiry found the senior figures had abused the access that came with their previous high rank it could be "shut down" in future.

But while Mr Hammond said the revelations were "deeply damaging" to the reputations of the individuals concerned, he insisted there was "no way that retired officers influence the way that military equipment is procured".

Undercover reporters posing as representatives of a South Korean weapons manufacturer seeking to sell unmanned "drone" aircraft to the UK Government set up and filmed meetings with the senior ex-military figures.

The newspaper said two - former Defence Academy head Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely and former MoD procurement chief Lieutenant General Richard Applegate - claimed to have lobbied on deals in breach of Whitehall rules. Sir John has resigned as president of the Royal British Legion.