Written evidence submitted by the Campaign
Against Arms Trade
1. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)
in the UK works to end the international arms trade. Around 80%
of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters.
2. Many of the points CAAT is making in
this submission are also being made to the Strategic Defence and
Security Review (SDSR) and the Defence Committee's inquiry into
it. Your Committee's inquiry, looking at the issue from a different
angle, is most welcome. There is a real need for oversight and
coordination, to make sure that the Government's security strategies
are coherent and that actions of one part of government do not
undermine another. This applies to many aspects of domestic policy,
including energy, business and education, as well as those with
a focus beyond the UK.
3. CAAT welcomes the fact that the Strategic
Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is being coordinated by the
National Security Council (NSC) and not by the Ministry of Defence
(MoD). Hopefully, the establishment of the NSC will widen the
debate about security and how to achieve it.
4. That the NSC is in charge of the SDSR
has brought its own challenges as the NSC has little web presence
and it has been difficult to discover even practical details such
as where to send submissions and by what date. This contrasts
sharply with CAAT's experience with other Government and parliamentary
consultations, where such details are readily available on a website
and are often sent to potentially interested parties.
5. It is disappointing that the NSC did
not pro-actively seek out submissions from, and discuss them with,
organisations advocating radical changes in the approach, including
those with visions of a secure future achieved without using a
military approach. Opening the debate by welcoming and encouraging
diverse views would be likely to have brought fresh insight as
to how security issues might be tackled.
6. Arms exports should be central to the
SDSR as they jeopardise the UK's and other countries' security.
While security arguments are deployed to justify them, military
equipment is sold by commercial companies for commercial reasons.
The UK's security strategy should recognise this.
7. Today, two decades after the end of the
Cold War, there is a considerable measure of agreement that a
conventional military threat to the UK itself from another nation
state or a coalition of them is extremely unlikely. In 2008, in
its "National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom"
(NSS), the Government described the challenges to this, the "drivers
of insecurity", as: Challenges to the rules-based international
system; Climate change; Competition for energy; Poverty, inequality
and poor governance; and Global trends (economy, technology and
8. Despite this NSS and and its 2009 update
discussing a broader interpretation of security, to date, the
debate on the SDSR has focussed very firmly on military spending.
This mirrors the current allocation of resources and needs to
change markedly if the "drivers of insecurity" are to
be properly addressed. A rather small, but welcome, discussion,
particularly by military figures, has questioned the necessity
for particular items of equipment, such as new aircraft, ships
and Trident replacement, but even here the alternative is seen
in terms of equipment for the wars being fought, rather than more
radical non-military alternatives.
9. The arms companies, meanwhile, have not
been reluctant to exploit new security concerns. The European
Union's Security Research Programme is fostering the growth of
a "homeland security" industry in Europe and many of
the familiar arms companies are setting its research agenda, proposing
technical "solutions" to problems, sometimes with very
questionable implications for, for instance, civil liberties.
10. The wider security challenges could
be seen as a great opportunity. Tackling them could not only lead
to a more secure peace, but also a more sustainable economy.
Pressure to Maintain the Status Quo
11. The long time-spans of military equipment
projects; a reluctance to discount any threat, however unlikely
it is to materialise, as to do so might appear politically weak;
and the remnants of the equation of military power with importance
in the world have combined to leave the UK committed to heavy
expenditure on large items of military equipment.
12. Pressure to maintain the status quo
is also reinforced by the very close relationship between the
arms companies and the Government. This gives the former immense
influence over government decision-making. The relationship is
sustained through the use of lobbying companies, sponsorship and
donations, and public-private partnerships. More importantly,
the Government's arms export promotion unit, UK Trade & Investment
Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO); the "revolving
door" whereby Ministry of Defence (MoD) ministers and officials
move to work with arms companies; and joint government-industry
bodies all contribute to an unhealthy closeness.
13. This can be illustrated by looking at
the career for Sir Kevin Tebbit. He was the MoD's Permanent Secretary
from 1998 until November 2005. Retiring, he joined the Board of
Finmeccanica UK, owner of helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland,
just months later in June 2006. He is now the company's Chair
and is also Chair of the Defence Advisory Group of UKTI DSO, as
well as sitting on the National Defence Industries Council, a
forum for consultation between senior government ministers and
officials and industry.
14. However, it is not the career of one
specific individual that proves a barrier to new thinking. Rather
it is the cumulative effect of the many movements between the
public service and industry which predisposes decision-making
towards solutions that involve spending on military equipment,
rather than on non-military alternatives.
15. UK governments speak of strict arms
export controls, but the policy and practice has been to promote
arms sales with little or no regard for the damage they might
cause or the wider implications of supplying them. Many countries
where major conflicts are taking place are recipients of UK arms.
Governments which abuse human rights and authoritarian regimes
rank among the UK's most important markets. Development concerns
appear irrelevant as long as a country is willing to pay for weaponry.
Arms sales are undermining other government policies.
16. Indeed, arms sales have priority even
when relevant ministers oppose them. In 2001 BAE sold a £28
million Watchman air traffic control system to Tanzania, one of
the world's poorest countries went ahead because it was backed
by then Prime Minister Tony Blair. International Development Secretary
Clare Short opposed it.
17. In 2008 poverty was confirmed as a "driver
of insecurity". However, arms sales to India, including the
£700 million Hawk deal signed during Prime Minister David
Cameron's visit to that country in July 2010, will not only contribute
to the regional arms race in South Asia, risk global security
and be likely to undermine government-community relationships
with UK citizens of Pakistani origin. Importantly, they also use
resources desperately needed to tackle poverty in a country where
the United Nations Development Programme defines over half the
population as poor.
18. Arms exports carry a message of acceptance
and support for the purchasing government and they can ameliorate
the impact of any criticism of that might otherwise be occasioned.
They can also impede efforts to tackle problems such as corruption.
19. The most obvious example of this is
Saudi Arabia. Although on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's
list of countries of human rights concern, criticism of the oppression
of women, homosexuals or overseas workers is tempered by the desire
to sell weapons to the oil-rich Saudi royal family. In 2006 the
UK Government stopped the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into BAE
Systems' weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, ostensibly for reasons
of national security, but in reality to secure a deal to export
20. Such two-faced dealings with Saudi Arabia
have not gone unnoticed. A Fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden in
1996, entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans
Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places", cites corruption
in Saudi Arabia and arms purchases by the Saudi Government as
major justifications for his call for a Jihad not only against
the United States, but also against the Saudi royal family as
21. The addiction to arms sales also renders
the export control procedures almost meaningless and with the
promotion of arms exports such a priority, the Government's commitment
to working for an international arms trade treaty is mere window
22. Arms manufacture itself is being exported
with UK arms deals, including those with India and Saudi Arabia,
as the contracts help those countries establish an indigenous
industry there. This is part of a growing trend, a dangerous one
from a proliferation perspective as more and more countries are
able to produce high-tech weaponry.
23. The UK is also open to the charge of
hypocrisy by continuing to possess nuclear weapons while calling
on other states, such as Iran, not to develop them. To renew Trident
would compound this and lessen the chances of other states forgoing
such weaponry. Such potential proliferation threatens UK and global
24. There is much rhetoric from UK governments
about the need to tackle climate change, but they have chosen
to allocate far more taxpayers' money to support arms exports
and production. In 2008 UK government-funded research and development
(R&D) for renewables was around £66 million, compared
to over £2,500 million for arms.
25. There are about 160 staff in UKTI DSO,
dedicated to promoting military exports, more than those UKTI
employees providing specific support to all other sectors of industry
put together, despite arms being only 1.5% of total UK exports
and, even then, 40% of their components are imported.
Justifications Don't Hold Up
26. Despite the dangers posed by arms exports,
the close relationship between the Government and the arms companies
mean they continue and that governments search for justifications.
These do not appear to stand up.
27. National security is the Government's
main official argument for supporting arms sales. The premise
is that military exports can guarantee the supply of arms for
the UK armed forces by keeping production lines open in the UK.
However, the arms companies that are supposed to provide the guarantee
of supply are international businesses, with production taking
place across the globe. All significant MoD purchases include
many overseas components and sub-systems. It is entirely unrealistic
to expect these companies and their international shareholders
to prioritise any one country's armed forces over those of other
28. The Government also speaks of the assistance
given by military exports to reducing industry's fixed overhead
costs and thus lowering the cost of equipment bought by the MoD.
This, however, ignores the subsidy and support given to arms exports.
The total subsidy is difficult to calculate, but even the MoD,
in its 2005 Defence Industrial Strategy, admitted that: "...
the balance of argument about defence exports should depend mainly
on non-economic considerations."
29. Despite this, it is still claimed that
arms sales are good for the economy. No independent study seems
to have been undertaken which supports this. Freedom of Information
(FoI) requests by CAAT to the MoD and the then Department of Trade
and Industry have revealed that neither have conducted any studies
into the economic impact of Al Yamamah 1 or 2. A parliamentary
answer (Hansard, 26.10.10, Col 117/8W) referred to the Department
for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) a "analysis"
on the number of jobs sustained in the UK by Eurofighters ordered
by the MoD. Follow-up FoI requests, however, revealed that the
figures given had been arrived at by asking three companies the
number of jobs they and their supply chains would lose if the
order was cancelled. No independent analysis had been undertaken
by BIS or independent researchers.
30. The argument that exports assist "defence
diplomacy" and with the building of "bi-lateral defence
relationships" is also advanced by the Government. That this
assists national security is far from self-evident; that it enforces
the military mindset and assists the arms companies is undeniable.
31. The number of jobs supported by the
arms industry is rather fewer than is generally believedmany
people are surprised when given the actual figures. In 2007-08,
the latest year for which Defence Analytical Services and Advice
employment statistics are available, the 65,000 jobs supported
by arms exports accounted for 0.2% of the UK workforce and less
than 2% of manufacturing employment. A further 150,000 workers
were employed producing equipment for the UK armed forces, but
even the military industry total of 215,000 jobs makes up less
than 0.7% of the UK workforce and around 7% of manufacturing jobs.
Military exports account for just 1.5% of all exports, with 40%
of the content for these being imported.
32. A real security strategy would focus
on cross-government solutions, with no preconception that these
are military. Since policies right across the spectrum can have
security implications, all ministers need to be aware of this
and the Cabinet needs to keep the need for coherence on this issue
firmly in mind.
33. The Government is making commerce a
top priority for UK. However, some trades or projects have an
impact of other government policy. The arms trade is one such.
As a first step towards withdrawing from it, UKTI DSO should be
shut, without transferring its functions elsewhere, and export
credit support for military projects withdrawn. Allied to this,
the UK's arms export criteria must be interpreted to ensure that
the UK does not licence exports to regions of conflict, repressive
regimes or where they threaten the meeting of social needs. It
is vital that the UK does not support and strengthen the ruling
elites while ignoring the poor and vulnerable.
34. At the same time, the UK should move
away from buying equipment designed to address scenarios that
are extremely unlikely to happen. Indeed, by seeing problems as
military ones requiring a military solution, the UK is more likely
to become engaged in wars. The UK Government could lead a global
rethink on arms procurement, starting by cancelling the purchase
of the Eurofighter Typhoon, the aircraft carriers and other "white
elephant" projects. Trident should not be renewed, and the
disarmament obligations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
endorsed and acted on.
35. Resources should be transferred from
supporting the arms companies to addressing climate change, widely
acknowledged as the biggest threat to human security. A rapid
expansion of renewable energy R&D and production is necessary,
and this requires public investment that will, in turn, draw in
36. Arms industry workers have skills that
are needed to meet these new challenges. BAE Systems likes to
portray itself as a major provider of high-tech jobs, but these
jobs are dependent on R&D funding from the tax-payer. If the
money changed sector the jobs would follow. Resources could be
targeted at those geographical locations which might be disproportionately
affected during the changes, as clearly these areas would have
workers with the skills to undertake alternative engineering projects.
37. Tackling climate change rather than
producing arms would win almost universal support and leave the
UK and the world a more secure place for future generations. Rising
to this challenge may also increase the number of young people
attracted to scientific or engineering careers when these are
seen as making a positive contribution to society rather increasing
its ability to destroy.