Submission from Campaign Against
1. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
is working for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international
arms trade, together with progressive demilitarisation within
2. CAAT welcomes the amendment of the terms
of reference for this inquiry to include conventional weapons.
This submission will focus on the export of these, in particular,
the contradiction between the Government's policies on national
security, which it says are grounded in human rights and democracy,
and its promotion of arms exports; and on the proposed Arms Trade
3. The Guiding principles of the National
Security Strategy (NSS) start by saying: "Our approach to
national security is clearly grounded in a set of core values.
These include human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable
government, justice, freedom, tolerance and opportunity for all
will promote them consistently in our foreign policy." CAAT
supports these principles, but disputes whether the Government
really adheres to them.
4. Whilst climate change is almost certainly
the greatest threat to UK and global security, it barely registers
when resources are allocated to "security". Instead,
the Government sees security in military terms and continues to
look for military solutions. The arms companies, obviously, encourage
this approach and, through their lobbying and links with Government,
make themselves seemingly indispensable. This close relationship
between the Government and military industry, leads, in turn,
to the former putting aside the principles of the NSS to promote
the latter's sales.
5. This leaves the UK open to the charge
of hypocrisy, a matter of great concern since many of those who
have committed acts of violence against UK citizens say they are
motivated by injustice perpetrated with the assistance of western
6. The UK government's support for BAE Systems'
arms sales to Saudi Arabia has been well-documented. These sales
are currently co-ordinated by the Ministry of Defence Saudi Armed
Forces Project within the Ministry of Defence (MoD). It has 200 employees
in the UK and Saudi Arabiathese are UK civil servants and
military personnel whose salaries are paid for by the Saudi Arabian
government. The Export Credits Guarantee Department underwrites
the sales. The liability for the UK taxpayer at 31 March
2008 was £750 million.
7. The promotion of the sales over several
decades, and the financial and practical support given to them
by successive UK governments, has given succour to the undemocratic
government of Saudi Arabia. This has a human rights record which
makes it a "country of concern" for the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office (FCO). It treats women as second-class citizens
and its immigrant workers appallingly.
8. Far from giving the UK influence in Saudi
Arabia, in 2006 the UK government put BAE's desire to sell
Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft before all else, enabling the Saudi
authorities to successfully halt the Serious Fraud Office investigation
into corruption allegations by threatening to withdraw security
co-operation. If the UK government had really taken the threat
to national security seriously, surely it beggars belief that
it should have allowed, let alone continued to press for and support,
the sale of the planes.
9. Despite the frequent use of arms against
Palestinian civilians, the UK government continues to licence
the export of military equipment to Israel, both directly and
via the United States as components to be incorporated in US supplied
weaponry. Even during the 2006 war with Lebanon, no embargo
10. In July 2002, the Government even changed
its own policy to allow the export of components for F-16 fighters
being made by the US company Lockheed Martin and sold to Israel.
A new "Factor" was added to the arms export criteria,
justified by the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who said: "The
Government has judged that the UK's security and defence relationship
with the US is fundamental to the UK's national security
collaboration with the US is also key to maintaining a strong
defence industrial capacity." In other words, the commercial
relationship between BAE and US companies such as Lockheed Martin
was judged more important than the arms export criteria as they
stood and the lives of Palestinian people.
11. The conflict between India and Pakistan
makes South Asia one of the most volatile regions of the world,
yet the UK supplies weapons and weapon parts to both. The £800 million
contract for 66 BAE Systems Hawk Jets was signed in 2004 after
no fewer than 17 visits to the country by Prime Minister
Tony Blair and other UK ministers. Although the Hawks were sold
as training aircraft, they are also advertised as "multi-role",
in that they can be used effectively in ground attacks and as
"a combat aircraft should an operational scenario present
12. Pakistan has not been one of the UK's
most important arms export markets, but there have been some significant
deals. In 2002, when India and Pakistan were on the brink of war,
it was discovered that Alenia Marconi Systems, then half owned
by BAE, was training elite Pakistani pilots and fighter operations
controllers in the use of integrated electronic warfare at a specialist
training college in Wales. Additionally, between 1999 and
2002, Marconi Super Skyranger radars were fitted into Pakistan's
13. In April 2008, UK Trade & Investment's
Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) assumed responsibility
for the promotion of military exports from the MoD's Defence Export
Services Organisation which closed. UKTI is responsible both to
the FCO and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory
14. UKTI gives disproportionate support
to military exports. Such exports make up about 1.5% of total
UK exports with arms export employment accounting for 0.2% of
the UK workforce and just 2% of manufacturing employment. Before
the establishment of UKTI DSO, UKTI's industry-specific trade
promotion was undertaken by the Sectors Group, with a total of
129 staff covering all industries. UKTI DSO has a staff of
15. Arms fairs are large-scale arms proliferation
events where buyers and sellers of any country can meet and arrange
deals. UKTI DSO organises the UK presence at them. For example,
in November 2008 it did so with regards to the International
Defence Exhibition and Seminar in Pakistan which was billed as
showcasing "a wide variety of technology, ranging from equipment
used in third world countries to the most sophisticated systems
from the West."
16. In common with many other sectors of
the economy, there is no longer any identifiable UK arms industry.
Military industry is internationalised with most equipment containing
components and sub-systems from a variety of companies, which
typically may have their headquarters in one country, but subsidiaries
in several others. Sales, too, are global with, for example, Thales
and General Dynamics being major suppliers to the UK Ministry
of Defence, whilst BAE Systems sells more to the US than it does
to the UK government.
17. UKTI addresses this lack of recognisably
UK businesses by saying that: "To quality for UKTI trade
services the business should be able to demonstrate that it has
an active UK trading address. This includes both UK-based business
investing, or looking to invest, overseas and foreign-owned businesses
based in the UK. There is no policy with regard to foreign content,
we are looking at overall benefit to the UK economy."
18. With the arms export sector, there is
no such benefit. Military industry is extremely heavily subsidised,
especially through export credits and research and development
spending. Even the Ministry of Defence, in its 2005 Defence
Industrial Strategy, admits: "Arguments for supporting defence
exports in terms of wider economic costs and benefits eg the balance
of payments, are sometimes also advanced. A group of independent
and MoD economists (M Chalmers, N Davies, K Hartley and C WilkinsonThe
Economic Costs and Benefits of UK Defence Exports. York University
Centre for Defence Economics, 2001) examined these, by considering
the implications of a 50% reduction in UK defence exports. They
concluded that the 'economic costs of reducing defence exports
are relatively small and largely one off
as a consequence
the balance of argument about defence exports should depend mainly
on non-economic considerations.'"
19. Military exports undoubtedly bring commercial
benefit to arms companies and their shareholders. This is not,
however, the same as benefiting the UK economy as a whole and
the subsidy skews the economy towards arms production. In turn,
this potentially damages other sectors that might be more efficient
and innovative. There is also the question of the business opportunities
that are lost because of conflicts that are supported materially
by UK arms exports or politically by the legitimisation they lend.
20. The money saved by reducing or ending
the UK arms trade could be invested in other industries such as
renewable energy and transport, which would create new, highly
skilled jobs. This would mean that the principles of the Government's
NSS would be complemented by a "low carbon" economic
policy that would enhance international and UK security rather
than undermined by a military export promotion policy which increases
21. CAAT supports the idea of an ATT in
principle, but questions whether it will be effective, at least
in so far as major conventional and high-technology equipment
is concerned. The ATT could strengthen the hands of governments
trying to prevent the circulation of small arms, and CAAT would
warmly welcome this, but it is clear that the deals the companies
find most lucrative, such as those to Saudi Arabia, Israel, India
and Pakistan, would continue unabated.
22. The FCO itself stresses that the proposed
ATT is "not a disarmament treaty but an export control treaty"
aimed at stopping weapons reaching "the hands of terrorists,
insurgents and human rights abusers". The ATT is supported
by the arms industry; unsurprisingly, since the FCO says it: "will
be good for business, both manufacturing and export sales."
23. The FCO has told CAAT that the ATT will
not prevent any UK sales. This was reinforced by the Defence Manufacturers
Association's DMA News, January 2006, which said the DMA believes
"the eventual Treaty would not bring new obligations for
UK industry." It seems that sales to FCO countries of concern,
such as Saudi Arabia, would continue unabated.
24. As envisaged by the UK government, the
ATT would not provide adequate constraints and could well serve
simply to legitimise arms sales. CAAT is concerned that its support
for the ATT allows the Government to the impression it is taking
action, whilst it continues to support the arms companies in their
25. Active promotion of arms around the
world is the last thing that any responsible, pragmatic and forward-thinking
government, concerned for its citizens' security, should be doing.
The UK government should close down UKTI DSO without transferring
its functions elsewhere.
26. The UK government should match its words
with actions with regards to the NSS's Guiding principles. Respect
for human rights and robust anti-corruption measures must not
be subordinated to the desire of global arms companies to make
profits for their shareholders.
27. There is no such thing as a responsible
arms trade. The UK government must acknowledge that an ATT will
be worthwhile only if it stops arms sales, from the UK as well
as elsewhere, to areas of conflict and to human rights violators.
27 November 2008