Farnborough Air Show is 'shop window for deadly weapons'

By staff writers
July 15, 2010

Military delegations from repressive regimes and countries in conflict are among those who will be attending the 2010 Farnborough Air Show which runs from 19-25 July. Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will attend, having been invited by the UK government. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) says that the presence of such countries makes a mockery of the system of arms export controls, which supposedly restrict arms sales to responsible countries.

While negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty take place in New York, Coalition Government ministers will be participating in trade days at Farnborough. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who has overall responsibility for the government arms sales unit, UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) and who opposed government support for arms exports whilst in opposition, will be there on Monday 19 July. The Defence Minister, Liam Fox, who has explicitly stated that arms sales should be a foreign policy tool, will attend on Tuesday 20 July.

CAAT has long opposed government subsidies for arms sales, which amount to hundreds of millions of pounds annually, through Research and Development funding, generous procurement policies and government backed insurance, in addition to sales support through UKTI DSO. Arms sales do not bring the many benefits for employment and exports so often claimed by supporters. Arms trade jobs account for only 0.2 per cent of the UK workforce and comprise only 1.5 per cent of exports. Each arms trade job is subsidised to the tune of at least £9,000 a year.

CAAT's Research Co-ordinator, Ian Prichard, said, "The UK arms industry uses Farnborough as a shop window for its deadly trade and the UK government welcomes customers through the doors. In the same way that it supports arms sales in general, the Government provides funding, expertise and contacts to make Farnborough happen.

"The weekend air show is the window dressing which attracts the crowds but on the previous five days the show is strictly business. Contacts are made and weaponry deals are negotiated in private chalets arrayed as grandstands for the air displays. Invited customers include the militaries of Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Do the crowds thrilling at the aerobatics realise that they are just witnessing the closing ceremony of a week of indiscriminate arms selling?"

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade together with progressive demilitarisation within arms producing countries. Around 80 per cent of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters and CAAT is strictly non-violent in all its work.

In May 2010 CAAT published a briefing on the role of the government in arms sales Private gain, public pain – the case for ending Government's arms selling. It can be downloaded from CAAT's website at: Private gain, public pain

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