LIZ TRUSS IS BEING CHALLENGED by peace campaigners on her proposed increase in military spending, and her track record on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. 

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), has urged the Prime Minister to say how she will find the money for her promise of increasing military spending by 60 per cent by the end of the decade.

Research published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) found that Liz Truss’ promise of raising defence spending to three per cent of national income by 2030 represents a 60 per cent increase on current levels, and will cost £157 billion RUSI’s research suggested that the amount involved was equivalent to an extra 5p in the pound on Income Tax. Less than two years ago, Boris Johnson announced the biggest increase in UK military spending since the Cold War.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said: “Liz Truss urgently needs to explain where she is going to find £157 billion. She says she doesn’t believe in handouts, but she is ready to offer a massive handout to generals and arms dealers. If you’re worrying about energy bills or struggling to feed your children, then aircraft carriers and nuclear missiles are not going to make your life more secure. The only thing that higher military spending will protect is the profits of arms dealers.

“The UK already has the fourth highest military spending in the world. Liz Truss and the leaders of the armed forces are insulting the people of Ukraine by using their suffering as an excuse for higher military spending. But the Ukraine war can be ended only through international negotiations and long-term peacebuilding. In reality, only a relatively small percentage of British military spending has anything to do with Ukraine.”

On the day Liz Truss became Prime Minister, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) handed in an open letter to Downing Street, signed by 7385 people, calling on the new Prime Minister to stop arming the Saudi-led coalition fighting the war in Yemen.

CAAT says the war in Yemen has been made possible by weapons supplied by the UK and the US, and sustained by their ongoing military support. Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the value of UK arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition amounts to at least £23 billion.

While a fragile truce in Yemen hangs in the balance, widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law continue. In the last month, attacks against civilians and other related violence have resulted in 232 civilian casualties including 57 children. The last week of July witnessed the highest increase of child casualties in one week since early 2020.

Liz Truss was Secretary of State for International Trade, leading on military and security exports from 2019 – 2021. During this period, CAAT took the government to court over UK arms exports to the Saudi-led Coalition. Whilst the Court of Appeal found in CAAT’s favour, in July 2020, Liz Truss issued a written statement saying the government had completed the review ordered by the Court of Appeal, and had determined that any violations of international law were “isolated incidents”. This was issued despite there being evidence of hundreds of cases where the Saudi-led coalition had targeted schools, funerals and homes.

In the time since Liz Truss made this statement, the government has approved licences worth £2.2 billion as well as 46 open licences, of unlimited value, to the Coalition.

Campaign Against Arms Trade is calling for the new Prime Minister and the UK government to end arms sales for use in the war on Yemen, increase resources to end the humanitarian crisis created by the war, and support efforts to build a sustainable peace.

Andrew Feinstein, author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, says: “The UK arms the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and is, thus, complicit in violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes. The UK’s deadly, corrupt trade in weapons is making billions for its weapons makers, arms dealers and politicians, while causing the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians and the suffering and immiseration of millions more. Anyone who feels empathy for the suffering in Ukraine must oppose the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia which are causing even greater harm and devastation in Yemen.’

Amber Rose-Dewey of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The imposition of Liz Truss as Prime Minister marks a worrying turning point for the war on Yemen, amongst other issues. Truss has made it clear in her tenure as Secretary of State for International Trade that she has little concern for the people of Yemen. Not only has she admitted to an ‘inadvertent’ breach of the Court of Appeal ruling to halt sales of weapons to Saudi in 2019, thus breaking the law, but she has also continually sanctioned the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Clearly, Truss prioritises profit and trade over the lives of civilians in Yemen.”

* Read the RUSI research on proposed increase in military spending here.

* Sources: Peace Pledge Union and Campaign Against Arms Trade