BAE: Bribery allegations - or just a way of doing business?
"One man's bribe is another man's commission." That's how one leading Bristol business guru reacted to the furore over today's announcement that BAE Systems face allegations of bribery.
Across the west country, thousands of people work, broadly speaking, in the defence business. 3,500 work at Airbus in Filton, and their A400M plane - the replacement for today's Hercules transport aircraft - is a key programme. South Africa and Malaysia are key customers for this plane.
Over the road at Rolls Royce, 1,800 people work on the military programmes, making engines for the Typhoon and components for the new Joint Strike Fighter.
We've been at it a long time around here. The test track at Swindon's Honda plant was once a runway for the Spitfire factory. The other great hero of the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane, was created up the road by the Gloster Aircraft Company.
Today, military suppliers need international customers to survive (actually, they always have). And there are those who argue that if you trade with Arab states or South East Asia, you must expect different rules of business. "Is it a backhander - or just the way the Arab Princes expect to trade?" asked Mike Warburton, senior partner at Grant Thornton in Bristol.
Today's charges, of course, are not about Arabs. The deal with Tanzania was tiny, just £22m. And for Graham Davey of the Bristol Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the amount of business it brought wasn't worth the questionable ethics involved. The SFO will decide whether BAE strayed, of course, but the debate is already alive.
"Does South Africa need to spend £3bn on arms, when it has an Aids epidemic and chronic poverty?" asks Graham Davey. Maybe not, I counter - but you can hardly blame BAE simply for meeting an order. "That is the argument of the drug pusher," he replies. "It's not a trade we should be in, and certainly not in the underhand way that these deals are done."
For Mike Warburton though, this is a real industry, trading worldwide and employing thousands. BAE is the UK's largest manufacturer, and Mike worries that the SFO will be sending out a message that Britain is no longer serious about the defence business.
So what about you? Should we accept different standards round the world, and encourage a strong sector which employs thousands round here? Or is it time to clean up Britain's arms trade?