Claims about the economic benefits of the arms industry have been grossly exaggerated, according to evidence highlighted by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
They have pointed out that the figures do not back up the argument that the industry is good for British jobs, as repeatedly claimed by government and arms companies.
In their new briefing, Headline Highs to Small-Print Lows, CAAT point out that by the government's own statistics, arms export jobs make up 0.2 oer cent of UK jobs and arms exports account for below 1.5 per cent of total UK exports.
Despite this, the government gives so much financial support to arms companies, that each job is effectively subsidised by to the tune of at least £9,000 per year.
According to CAAT, “The jobs argument dominates the arms debate and is used to brush aside concerns about ethics and wasteful public spending”.
However, they suggest that “The argument is used because it is believed rather than because it is true.”
Despite the claims of arms companies about the economic benefits they bring to Britain, many have reduced their UK workforces and moved jobs overseas in recent years.
CAAT are keen to emphasise that they do not want to put anyone out of work, but to allow them to see their skills used more productively through careful and targeted investment in other sectors, particularly technologies which address carbon emissions.
“This is a question of priorities,” stated CAAT's Ian Prichard, “Do we want to be at the leading edge of green technologies tackling the biggest threat to human security this century – climate change? Or would we rather pursue international power projection through the old commitment to arms production?”
Arguments about jobs have been central to many debates over the arms trade in recent years. When the government cancelled a criminal investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals in 2006, BAE's supporters in the media suggested that their latest Eurofighter deal could bring 50,000 jobs to the UK.
However, an earlier Eurofighter report had put the figure at around 5,000 and BAE have now admitted that most of the jobs will be based in Saudi Arabia.
CAAT's briefing on arms industry employment can be found at http://www.caat.org.uk/issues/jobs/jobs_overview.php.