The government unit responsible for promoting British exports, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), is facing calls for an end to its role in the arms trade.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) launched a new campaign on the issue, UKTI: Armed and Dangerous, at its annual National Gathering in London at the weekend.
CAAT pointed out that UKTI commits roughly as many staff to promoting arms sales as it does to promoting all civil sectors combined - even though arms make up less than 2% of UK exports. Responsibility for arms promotion was moved into UKTI in April this year, due to the closure of the controversial Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), following campaigning by CAAT and other groups.
Launching the campaign, CAAT's Sarah Waldron said: "UKTI spends taxpayers' money employing civil servants to promote private arms sales. Many involve deals with oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia as well as countries in conflict or in regions of tension. At a time when civil industry desperately needs support, it is obscene that the government is using so many of UKTI's resources to sell arms. It's time to end the uncivil service."
The launch of the new campaign was the centrepiece of CAAT's National Gathering, which saw a record turnout following a sharp rise in public opposition to the arms trade in the wake of controversies over BAE and Saudi arms deals.
The event brought together CAAT supporters of varied backgrounds and ages from across the UK. The keynote speaker was Solomon Hughes, author of War on Terror, Inc, whose talk was followed by a range of workshops and networking sessions.