The Conservatives' shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, is facing strong criticism for suggesting that a Tory government would increase financial and political support for arms exports, despite the party's commitment to spending cuts in other areas.
Addressing the UK Defence Conference, Fox said that he wanted "to increase Britain's share of the world defence market”.
He promised to reopen DESO - the Ministry of Defence unit which used taxpayers' money to lobby for arms companies' interests within government and promote arms exports.
There was a shocked response from those who have listened for weeks to Conservative emphasis on the need for public sector spending cuts.
Although Fox said that he wanted "to preserve UK defence jobs", campaigners have long pointed out that - by the Ministry of Defence's own figures – well under half a percent of UK jobs are dependent on arms exports.
However, arms dealers are already estimated to receive over £800 million per year in subsidies from the UK taxpayer, through government-funded marketing and “research and development” projects.
Fox caused further alarm by stating that “the Conservative Party will use defence exports as a foreign policy tool”.
In response, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) insisted that “arms sales guarantee neither peace nor security”.
“Once military equipment has been exported we have little control over how it may be used” they added, “The current government has recently made high-level political interventions to help arms companies sell to Libya. Does arming Libya increase the UK's security?”
Fox, considered to be sympathetic to the neo-conservative movement in the USA, is well known for his support for arms companies.
At the Conservative Party's conference next week, the Tory leader, David Cameron, is likely to face calls to tackle Fox's enthusiasm for the arms trade in the light of the recession and the growing public opposition to arms companies in recent years.