MPs want multi-million pound deal scrapped due to Bhopal tragedy shadow

The British government was on Tuesday accused of being part of a “conspiracy of silence” over Dow Chemical's controversial sponsorship of the London Olympics as MPs, cutting across party lines, called for the multi-million pound deal to be scrapped because of the company's links with the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.

They also demanded an independent investigation into the procurement process by which the sponsorship was given to Dow, describing the whole exercise as a “sham.”

Besides a £7-million deal under which Dow is funding a fabric wrap for the Olympic stadium in east London, it has a 10-year sponsorship arrangement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) estimated to be worth at least £100 million.

A debate in Parliament saw one of the ruling Conservative Party's most high-profile members, Zac Goldsmith, a former environment adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, attack the deal, describing Dow as one of the world's most environmentally unethical companies.

Labour's Andrew Smith also condemned Dow's record in environmental sustainability, and sought the government's intervention in stopping the deal.

The most savage attack came from Barry Gardiner, Labour MP and Chair of Labour Friends of India, who had called the debate. He said the procurement process lacked transparency and needed to be investigated.

“The entire procurement process appears to be a sham. The application window was only ten days long. That is only ten days to apply for a purported £7-million contract, something unheard of in the government or business worlds,” he said.

Mr. Gardiner alleged that the deal was given to Dow under IOC “pressure.” He also questioned Dow's claim that the dispute over its liability for the Bhopal gas tragedy, as the inheritor of Union Carbide, had been settled.

He pointed out that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) had claimed that it was committed to delivering “the most sustainable of all Olympic Games” and yet one of its key sponsors was “a company whose name is inextricably linked with the worst chemical disaster in human history.”

He said: “The government must now intervene in this mess and act to kick Dow out of the Olympics. There must then be a full and transparent investigation into the process, which ensures the future integrity of the Olympics, and the proper relationship between national Olympic authorities, the International Olympic Committee and host governments.”

John Penrose, Minister for Tourism & Heritage, said the Government was not involved and all questions “should be directed to LOCOG.”

The MPs called his reply evasive, arguing that the government had invested millions of pounds in the Games and had a right to make sure that LOCOG was accountable to taxpayers.

Recently, Meredith Alexander, a leading environmentalist, resigned from the Games' ethics committee protesting over Dow's involvement and accusing the organisers of behaving like “apologists” for the company.

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