//Time to fight shady ethics of the UK arms trade

Time to fight shady ethics of the UK arms trade

Symon Hill, 15 October 2006, Sunday Herald, Scotland

EVER considered a career as an arms trader? If so, I advise you to choose the UK as the location of your business. Arms dealers have direct access to the heart of power and receive huge subsidies from the government. If you doubt it, take a look at Deso, the Defence Export Services Organisation.

Deso is a government unit which negotiates arms sales. It is not there to make profits for Britain – it secures deals for private companies. Deso is a marketing agency for the arms trade, funded by taxpayers. Its boss, Alan Garwood, receives both a government salary and a “top-up” payment from arms dealers. No wonder Deso always puts arms company profits ahead of the interests of the British public.

Deso is concerned with neither our economy nor our security. The arms trade adds to an unstable world which benefits only those wealthy people who make money by selling weapons. Ending subsidies for arms dealers would free up billions that could be spent building hospitals, training teachers or tackling climate change.

Nor does Deso allow ethics to stand in the way of profits: its trading partners include Saudi Arabia and Colombia, vicious abusers of human rights. Deso boosts profits further by selling weapons to different sides in the same conflict, such as India/Pakistan and China/Taiwan.

We have only to turn on the news to see the results of this trade. Easily- available weapons fuel existing wars and trigger new ones. Human rights are undermined when tyrants buy arms to oppress their people. Every pound spent on rockets and rifles is a pound less spent on vaccines and school books.

Shutting Deso would hit the UK’s arms traders where it hurts. They could say goodbye to their free marketing service and their easy access to ministers. The fuel of their trade would run dry.

People are lining up to demand Deso’s closure. They include politicians, from Menzies Campbell to Clare Short, and both Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders. They are supported by comedian Mark Thomas, writer George Monbiot and Norman Kember, who survived a kidnapping in Iraq. Tomorrow campaigners will travel from across Britain to form a human chain around Deso’s London headquarters.

The government is on the run. Its only hope of saving Deso is to ensure most people don’t heard of it. But the public is not easily fooled. They will not allow their taxes to be used to prop up arms profiteers while schools and hospitals struggle for money. It’s time to serve notice on the government’s gunrunners.