Persuade your MP
For years, many MPs have been responding to our calls for a change in the UK's approach to arms sales with assurances that the UK's arms sales are carefully vetted and it will only sell to stable regimes. Recent events have shown once again that these can only ever be empty promises while the emphasis of government policy is on promoting weapons sales, not controlling them. Help us shift the ground of the debate by writing to your MP.
This page lists the latest action opportunities and important current issues to raise with your MP. If you're looking to reply to an MP's letter we've also suggested possible responses to the points MPs most commonly raise.
September 2012: Labour policy on arms exports
A Guardian 'Comment is Free' article on 17 September gave an insight into Labour Party policy on arms sales. Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and his Defence counterpart Jim Murphy wrote a piece entitled "The UK needs a truly progressive arms policy in the wake of the Arab Spring." This was an encouraging title, but it was very disappointing that the article said nothing about the government's role in promoting arms sales. It's vital that Labour adopts a policy on arms sales that will really make a difference.
Please write to Douglas Alexander MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or email him.
You can say you are pleased that Labour is considering arms exports, but if a future government is to effectively control them it must stop acting as a sales rep for the arms industry. In particular, it must end the promotion of arms sales to repressive regimes. Labour should adopt policies to:
- Stop using taxpayers' money to promote the arms trade, especially through the UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO);
- Reallocate government subsidies so that skilled workers currently employed in the arms industry can instead use their talents to help the UK develop clean technology – boosting jobs and the economy.
July 2012: MPs criticise arms exports
The Committees on Arms Export Controls, a cross-party group of MPs which scrutinises UK arms exports, has issued its annual report – and it contains important criticisms of the government's policy on arms exports.
Please help us make sure every MP knows how the government is still putting arms promotion before human rights, by asking your MP to look at the report's conclusions over their summer break.
CAAT was particularly pleased that the report highlighted:
- the conflict between strongly promoting arms exports to authoritarian regimes while strongly criticising their lack of human rights;
- that the repressive regimes to which UK governments authorised the supply of arms had not suddenly become authoritarian at the time of the Arab Spring – that is, the government's arms export decisions clearly were flawed. Countries such as Bahrain and Libya were known to be repressive regimes before the uprisings last year – yet the UK armed them regardless.
- the nature of the UK relationship with Saudi Arabia, by far the largest arms buyer in the region. The Committees asked the government "whether it applies different or the same considerations in deciding whether or not to approve arms export licences to Saudi Arabia to those applied to other countries in the region and, if different, what those considerations are;
- how UKTI Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the government's arms sales unit, determines its priority markets. CAEC has asked the Government to: "set out fully the reasons why Libya and Saudi Arabia remain within the UKTI DSO Priority Markets list for 2011/2012 when both countries are also listed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its latest Human Rights and Democracy Annual Report as being Countries of Concern."
July 2012: Farnborough International Airshow
The UK government was out in force to promote arms sales at Farnborough International from 9-13 July. This provided another clear example of the government promoting arms sales to repressive regimes. Some of the countries that the government invited to send military delegations are also listed, by the government, as 'countries of concern' for human rights. Rosoboronexport, the main arms supplier to Syria, was among the exhibitors. Read more on CAAT's Farnborough pages and the CAAT blog.
June 2012: Ministers write to all MPs about UK arms exports.
Business Minister Mark Prisk and Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt have sent a joint letter to every MP in the country, which aims to reassure MP about UK arms sales. This unusual move is great testament to the impact of campaigners - but we don't agree with the content! You can read the letter here (PDF) and view our responses to some of the points raised here. Update: see July's news for details of a parliamentary report that also contradicts many of the Ministers' claims.