Looking through the media after arriving in the CAAT office this morning, I was greeted by unexpected coverage of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) – a government unit that is the focus of CAAT’s new core campaign.
UKTI promotes exports – including arms exports. However, the news today was not about the arms trade. It was about golf.
Tory MP Humfrey Malins discovered that UKTI has spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on branded golf balls – £12,030.50 in the last three years to be precise.
However, wasting taxpayers’ money seems to be par for the course at UKTI. Although arms make up less than 2% of the UK’s visible exports, UKTI employs about as many staff in its arms promotion unit as in all its civil industry-specific sectors combined.
That’s before we’ve even considered the human costs involved in the export of arms to conflict areas and oppressive regimes.
When I first began campaigning on the arms trade years ago, and people replied with comments about the economy, I used to think that economic arguments were something to be overcome. In recent years I’ve come to realise that there are sound economic reasons for opposing the arms trade. Economics and ethics combine in making clear the absurdity of UKTI’s support for arms exports.
It was arguably the increased emphasis on economics that led to the success of CAAT’s campaign for the closure of the infamous Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), which had previously been a “one-stop shop” for arms companies’ access to government and promotion of the arms trade. It was DESO’s closure – greeted with howls of outrage from the heads of BAE and Rolls-Royce – that led to responsibility for arms promotion being moved to UKTI.
DESO’s closure was the first time that arms dealers in the UK didn’t get things their own way. I’m convinced we can build on that advantage to end the uncivil service at UKTI.
You can sign CAAT’s petition online. And let’s remember that economic arguments are an aid not an obstacle to fighting the arms trade.