Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Arms Trade

Today in London the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair opened its doors.

I wrote about Britain's role in the arms trade business in today's Scotsman, and I have reproduced my article below.

I also spoke about this issue on this morning's Good Morning Scotland programme on BBC Radio Scotland as the 'thought for the day.  You can hear this on the iPlayer website for the next week (at 1:22:40).

Selling arms to our allies so they can defend themselves is one thing; making fortunes out of the misery of countless millions is another. The government is entrusted with the task of drawing a line between the two. Both the previous Labour government and the coalition have failed to do this.

I cannot accept the idea that an economy which relies on the production of life-denying equipment is healthy. It is perverse that the government should support and promote weapons production and distribution.

The British government has for years tried to manipulate global trade and politics by promoting arms sales to despotic regimes. Our taxes are going to support a war-mongering effort through the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO). This wing of UK Trade and Investment pushes the selling of armaments to many governments with appalling human rights records. It must be remembered that Britain was selling arms to Gaddafi's Libya in February and in March we were launching air strikes against the regime.

We need to ask why we allow the government use our money to support an arms trade system that sacrifices the lives and livelihoods of innocents overseas – and for what? A bigger profit margin, bigger bonuses and bigger shareholder dividend for fat-cat investors and executives.

The DSO must be closed and its operations cease. The subsidy it spends to support arms sales should be used for the common good. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the cost to the taxpayer of arms subsidies is £700 million a year. Other investigations show British arms sales to the Middle East are up 27 per cent on last year.

The arms trade can corrupt moral and financial judgment, and adds immeasurably to the anguish, pain and poverty of us all, especially the powerless. The Church is called to work for peace in the world that is founded on love and justice, not a balance of fear. Britain controls too much of the global arms trade; there must be other ways to influence the world for the better.

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