On 1st April 2008 UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) became the part of the UK government with the remit to promote military exports. UKTI is an organisation for which the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office are jointly responsible.
The UKTI Defence & Security Organisation has a staff of 160, as against a total of 129 staff covering all industries in the Sectors Group which undertakes UKTI's other industry-specific trade promotion. Even if ethical questions are put to one side, there can be no justification for the concentration of Government support on one industry.
UKTI DSO's predecessor: DESO
Previously, there had been an arms export agency, the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), located within the Ministry of Defence. Prime Minister Gordon Brown had announced the closure of DESO in July 2007, causing much anger in the arms industry.
Whilst the arms industry no longer has its foot in the Government's door in quite the way it did with DESO, it nonetheless still commands disproportionate support. Military exports make up about 1.5% of total UK exports with arms export employment accounting for 0.2% of the UK workforce and just 2% of manufacturing employment.
The positive changes
One change is that the first head of UKTI DSO, in contrast with all the recent heads of DESO, does not have an arms industry background. Richard Paniguian, appointed in June 2008, is an oil executive from BP. Nor, unlike the DESO heads, is his salary topped-up by the arms industry. It is reported that Alan Garwood, the former head of DESO, had his salary raised from civil service levels to £400,000 in this way.
Another change is that UKTI DSO, like all the other sectors, operates to UKTI strategic objectives, is answerable to the UKTI Board and its head reports to the UKTI Chief Executive. It also has to account for its use of MoD facilities and personnel. The Service Level Agreement between UKTI and the MoD, which is on the UKTI website, sets out in some detail who provides and pays for what.
Not so good
One of the tasks UKTI DSO has taken on from DESO is the organisation of the UK presence at arms fairs where buyers and sellers of any country can meet and arrange deals. One recent example of this was the November 2008 International Defence Exhibition and Seminar in Pakistan which was billed as showcasing "a wide variety of technology, ranging from equipment used in third world countries to the most sophisticated systems from the West." These arms fairs undermine the UK government's claims of a responsible arms export policy.