13 British Lords Linked to Israel’s Arms Trade

Over a dozen members of Britain’s unelected upper chamber work for, or profit from, arms firms linked to Israel.

17 April 2024
Lord Hutton chairs an arms company owned by Israel. (Photo: Troika / Alamy)

Lord Hutton chairs an arms company owned by Israel. (Photo: Troika / Alamy)

Seven peers work for arms firms involved with Israel’s weapons trade, while another six hold shares in companies that supply the Israeli military, our research into the House of Lords has found.

The value of these individual shareholdings is likely to be over £100,000 each, and is certain to have increased since 7 October.

Among the peers are two former defence ministers, an ex-cabinet secretary and two retired heads of the UK armed forces.

Our revelation raises concerns about how British parliamentarians are financially benefiting from the suffering in Gaza, with activists accusing them of “profiting from genocide”.

Campaign Against Arms Trade expressed alarm at how these unelected legislators could use their influence in Westminster to promote the interests of weapons manufacturers.

Pearson Engineering

The most controversial case centres on Lord John Hutton, who was defence and trade secretary under New Labour.

In 2022, he was appointed as the chair and non-executive director of Pearson Engineering, an arms company in Newcastle.

The move came just weeks after Pearson was taken over by Israel’s state-owned arms giant Rafael, as part of its “strategic expansion into the United Kingdom”.

Rafael was founded in 1948 under the Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) Military Science Corps, and currently makes many of the missiles and drones that Israel is using to bomb Gaza.

While Rafael’s largest client is the IDF, the company’s president and CEO, Yoav Har-Even, was recently tasked with investigating the Israeli airstrike which killed seven aid workers in Gaza, three of whom were British military veterans.

Pearson Engineering manufactures armoured vehicle parts and de-mining equipment for the British army. The company’s accounts now acknowledge that the Israeli state has “significant control” of the company.

Hutton did not respond to a request for comment. A statement on Pearson’s website about Gaza claims: “The IDF does not currently use any Pearson Engineering equipment”.

However Hutton might not be averse to them doing so. As trade secretary, he vowed to strengthen ties between Israel and the UK and, as defence secretary, he was named in a lawsuit over UK arms exports to Israel.

Pearson Engineering’s other recently-appointed directors demonstrate its close ties to both the Israeli parent company and the British military. They include Nick Pope, the former deputy chief of the British army’s general staff, Ran Gozali, Rafael’s executive vice president, and Yoram Aron, Rafael’s managing director in the UK.


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BAE Systems

Our investigation also identified five members of the House of Lords who have financial interests in BAE Systems.

That’s Britain’s largest arms firm, which manufactures key parts for Israel’s F-35 warplanes, described as “the most lethal… fighter jet in the world”. 

Around 15% of the F-35’s components are made in the UK, including the rear fuselage, tail parts, and electronics.

IDF chief of staff, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, inspected Israel’s fleet of F-35 warplanes in November and declared they provide “a very good connection” with ground forces operating in Gaza.

Lord Sedwill, a former UK national security adviser and cabinet secretary, has been a non-executive director of BAE Systems since November 2022. 

“They are representing the interests of the arms industry”

A further four members of the House of Lords – Viscount Eccles, Lord Gadhia, Lord Glendonbrook, and Lord Sassoon – hold shares in BAE Systems, according to their register of interests.

Peers are required to report any shareholding amounting to a controlling interest, or more than £100,000 in value. 

BAE Systems’ share price has increased by around 35 percent since 7 October, meaning the value of each of their investments may have increased by over £35,000 amid the Gaza genocide.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesperson, Emily Apple, told Declassified: “These unelected peers are profiting from genocide.” 

She added: “They are representing the interests of the arms industry, making a mockery of international law, and subverting our supposed democracy.

“In continuing to arm Israel, our government, and the UK arms trade, are complicit in utterly horrific crimes.

“An arms embargo will lead to a decrease in share prices – so it is unsurprising this government is prioritising the profits of arms dealers over Palestinian lives when so many politicians are shareholders”.


Another firm we investigated was Thales, one of the world’s largest arms companies headquartered in France.

Its advisors include Baron Arbuthnot of Edrom, Lord Houghton of Richmond, and Lord Powell of Bayswater.

Thales UK boasts how Arbuthnot brings “a wealth of experience”, having worked for nine years as chairman of the House of Commons defence select committee. 

Powell was Margaret Thatcher’s chief adviser for defence and foreign policy. Houghton is a former British army general who was chief of the defence staff from 2013-16.

If these peers weren’t enough, the board of Thales in France includes Baroness Taylor of Bolton. She developed ties with the company as a defence minister in the New Labour government.

Together, they work for a company with significant interests in the UK and Israeli militaries.

Thales UK has a joint venture with Israel’s largest arms firm, Elbit Systems, to produce Watchkeeper drones for the British military under the trade name UAV Tactical Systems.

As of September 2022, £1.31bn of UK public money had been spent on the Watchkeeper project.

The drone is modelled on Elbit’s Hermes 450, which has been extensively used over recent decades to attack Gaza.

“The British government is, in effect, buying technology that has been ‘field tested’ on Palestinians”, observed campaign group War on Want.

Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone was used in the recent Israeli attack on aid workers in Gaza. 

Following the incident, CAAT raised concerns that the Hermes may be “powered by a UK-made R902(W) Wankel engine”, produced by a Thales/Elbit subsidiary in the UK.


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The fourth company we looked into was Martin-Baker, a British engineering firm which makes ejection seats for Western fighter jets. 

As we recently reported, its explosive cartridges are relied upon by pilots flying Israel’s F-35 jets.

Lord Peach, another former UK defence chief and chairman of the NATO military committee, works as an adviser to Martin-Baker.

As head of Britain’s armed forces, Peach visited Israel in 2017 and was welcomed by an official honour guard at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv. The IDF said the visit was a “symbol of the strategic bonds between our armed forces”.

Another three Lords have investments in US arms firms which profit from the Israeli arms trade. 

Lord Patten holds shares in Lockheed Martin (the prime contractor for the F-35 jets) while Lord Levene of Portsoken has investments in General Dynamics (which manufactures MK-80 bombs supplied to Israel), according to their register of interests.

“The Israel situation obviously is a terrible one, frankly, and one that’s just evolving as we speak”, said Jason Aiken, chief financial officer and executive vice president at General Dynamics, in October.

“But I think if you look at the incremental demand potential coming out of that, the biggest one to highlight and that really sticks out is probably on the artillery side… I think the Israel situation is only going to put upwards pressure on that demand”, he added.

None of the peers named in this article responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.