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Open letter to David Cameron: Time for a wider discussion on national security

Dear Prime Minister

We are writing with respect to the National Security Strategy (NSS) review and the Defence and Security Review (DSR), both of which are scheduled to be published following the 2015 General Election. We do so in light of the report of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (DC), Towards the Next Defence and Security Review, (HC 197), published on 7 January, to which several of us submitted evidence, and the Government’s response, published on 26 March. We understand that the recommendations of this report will be the subject of a parliamentary debate in the coming months.

We urge you to ensure that the NSS and DSR processes help to shape the UK’s strategy in the world in a coherent manner. In summary, we believe:

  1. At this time of flux, there is a need to address some fundamental questions that have been neglected in the past, in particular the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict and threats to security.

  2. There is a need to be honest about the UK’s capability to contribute to tackling security challenges, and the Government needs to be prepared to change its approach, not simply focusing on dealing with the symptoms of insecurity.

  3. This discussion needs to be frank, inclusive and (as far as possible) take place in the public realm.

  4. The DSR needs to sit clearly and transparently within the NSS, with its decisions justified by reference to the NSS.

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Making arms dealers tread over “dead” bodies at the Imperial War Museum

Arms dealers stepping over protesters at the Imperial War Museum

Arms dealers step over protesters in the entrance to the Imperial War Museum

Yesterday I got trodden on by an arms dealer. How did that happen?

A group of us found out that the Annual Defence Dinner was taking place at the Imperial War Museum. At £210-£300 a ticket and billed as “one of the most prominent events in the defence and security calendar”, this wasn’t an opportunity we could miss.

We met before the event dressed up to the nines (or as much as possible) for the arms trade’s black tie event of the year. Our mission was to try and stop the arms dealers from entering the building and if a few people got inside that would be a bonus.

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Interrupting Vince Cable – a morning at the arms sellers’ symposium

UKTI DSO at the Farnborough Airshow in 2010

UKTI DSO: flogging arms with your taxes

On 26 April, Sam Walton took the stage to disrupt Vince Cable’s speech at a government arms sales conference.

We didn’t think we’d get in. The UKTI DSO Symposium is the biggest event of the year for Britain’s exporters of “defence & security” gear – so you’d think they’d have better security.

We wandered into the hotel past the police and made our way towards the entrance to the Symposium. Not having the faintest idea where anything was, we were helpfully directed to the ground floor where registration and the first networking and mingling of the day was taking place. Amazing how far a nice suit can get you.

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There’s no CHARM in depleted uranium

Campaigners outside the MoDAneaka Kellay of the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) explains why the UK government should stop its support for depleted uranium munitions and take responsibility for the contamination caused by their past use.

On 8 November campaigners dumped 2.3 tonnes of imitation “depleted uranium” (DU) dust on the steps of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in London. The reasons were twofold – to remind the MoD of their responsibility for contaminating areas of Iraq and Kuwait during the 1991 and 2003 conflicts and to cancel plans to extend the life of the UK’s last remaining DU round, the inaptly named CHARM3.

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