Demolish the government's arms sales department!
The new coalition government asked for people's views on what cuts should be made. There's one clear candidate: stop spending taxpayers' money helping arms companies market their weapons.
Stop Week coincided with the week of the budget. While essential services are under threat, hundreds of anti-arms trade campaigners took action across the UK to call for the "demolition" of the government's arms trading unit UKTI DSO. Its cost to the world in terms of bloodshed, human rights abuses and corruption is well established, but now it is clear Britain can no longer afford the financial cost of supporting the arms trade either.
Local activists put pressure on newly elected MPs, getting the ball rolling for our campaign to ensure every MP in the country feels the pressure to stop wasting millions on government support for the arms trade.
Read on for a few highlights of CAAT's week of action...
Targeting Vince Cable
The Conservatives have said they want to increase the support given to arms exports, and use arms sales 'as a foreign policy tool'. But, in the past, many senior Liberal Democrats have supported our campaign to end government support for arms exports, including Vince Cable, now the Minister responsible for UKTI.
In the run up to Stop Week, hundreds of people emailed Vince Cable calling on him to put his past commitments into practice now that he has a real opportunity to tackle arms exports. In Stop Week, constituents visited him to put the case for closure in person.
Hilary Evans reports:
"Seven supporters of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) met with Vincent Cable MP by arrangement on Friday 25 June. The group of Twickenham constituents included members of Kingston Peace Council, Amnesty and UNA and a Quaker.
We decided upon two priorities:
1. To find out if he is still sympathetic to the former Lib Dem view that arms exporters receive a disproportionate degree of taxpayer support. And, if he is of this opinion, whether he plans any changes to UKTI DSO.
2. To present him with a copy of the new CAAT report Private Gain, Public Pain which details how the government actively promotes arms sales even to repressive regimes with bad human rights records.
Dr Cable began by stating that he isn’t against arms trading provided it is properly regulated and carefully monitored, and he believes this to be the case now. It is an area which has been of great concern to him in the past and he has been jointly responsible for instigating the tightening of arms control legislation.
The really positive outcome was that he agreed to read CAAT's Private gain, Public pain report and comment fully on it. We will follow it up and it should open up a very valuable dialogue."
A mock demolition site outside UKTI – the arms sales unit
London Campaign Against Arms Trade descended on the UKTI department on Monday morning dressed as construction workers to highlight the unsafe nature of the work taking place inside. 200 of CAAT’s ‘Danger: unsafe structure’ were handed out to passers-by and UKTI staff. We felt our presence was particularly pertinent in light of the imminent budget. A lot of cuts would be unnecessary if the disproportionate support given to the arms trade was redirected into more socially beneficial areas such as addressing climate change.Read more about it.
Action around the country
Hundreds more CAAT supporters met with and wrote to their MPs, and took the message to the public with stalls and events on high streets in England, Wales and Scotland. Here's a few highlights:
- In Poole a successful street stall shifted nearly 200 campaign postcards. Chris Rocha, one of the six activists involved commented: "I think the arms trade has gone unchallenged for so long. It’s counterproductive to development in the Third world where they waste money which could be spent on development."
- Edinburgh CAAT held a petition stall on Princes Street and arranged a week long exhibition at Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre.
- Sheffield CAAT ran a stall at the 25th Annual Green Party Fair. Lots of interest was shown, petitions signed and money raised!
- Norfolk CAAT gave a visual presentation at the Norwich Peace Camp and lobbied local MPs.
- Hull CAAT used the week to focus public attention on why UKTI DSO should be demolished and lobbied local MPs.
- Thousands heard about the campaign through street stalls including in Macclesfield, Trowbridge and Birmingham.
Day of Prayer
CAAT's Christian Network co-ordinated a Day of Prayer at the start of Stop Week in June. Over 60 supporters took part and raised awareness in their communities about the arms trade.
Phil and Stella Westmacott write:
On the Arms Trade Day of Prayer on the 20th June Penarth CAAT Christian Network held a service at All Saints Church Penarth. The service focused on the government’s continuing support for the arms industry and the role of the United Kingdom Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) and Clarion Events in providing a platform for arms companies. On the 26th June Penarth Christian Network of the CAAT held a campaign stall in Windsor Road Penarth inviting people to support the campaign for closure of UKTI DSO and an end to its functions.
Other highlights of the Day of Prayer:
The Justice and Peace group in Corpus Christi parish in Brixton made a visual display for the weekend’s Masses and asked people to sign Demolition Order postcards.
Christian Network Co-ordinator Alun Morinan preached at the service led by Lesley Misrahi at Wood Green Mennonite Church.