Public figures call for closure of arms traders’ marketing unit

12 October 2006

Politicians and religious leaders are amongst public figures who are calling for the closure of DESO (Defence Export Services Organisation), a Government unit that secures business for private arms companies. They include the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party along with prominent Labour backbenchers such as Clare Short and John McDonnell. Their call comes ahead of a day of action on Monday, 16th October, when campaigners will form a human chain around DESO's headquarters in central London.

Other well-known figures to back the campaign include comedian Mark Thomas and Norman Kember, who survived kidnapping in Iraq. The campaign is supported by the Anglican Bishop of Coventry, Colin Bennetts and the RC Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue. They have been joined by Graham Carter, President of the Methodist Conference and Kate Coleman, President of the Baptist Union.

Symon Hill, spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said:

"DESO gives arms dealers direct access to the heart of Government, but it neither defends the UK nor helps the British economy. It is a marketing department for private arms companies, funded by taxpayers. Through DESO, weapons are sold to vicious regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Colombia. Yet ministers put millions of pounds into DESO whilst schools and hospitals go short of money."

Calls for DESO's closure have grown since September, when it was revealed that DESO's latest marketing plan listed Iraq and Libya as "key markets".

Campaigners will form a human chain around DESO's headquarters in Bloomsbury Way, London WC1 at 1.00pm on Monday, 16th October. This will be followed by a lobby of Parliament. Thirty-four organisations are backing the event, which has been organised by Campaign Against Arms Trade with the support of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.


For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Media Co-ordinator, Symon Hill on 020 7281 0297 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.


1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.

2. DESO's Strategic Marketing Plan for 2005 was obtained by CAAT under the Freedom of Information Act and made public on 24th September 2006. It listed Iraq and Libya as "key markets" for the first time, along with other regimes with poor human rights records including Colombia, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia. India and Pakistan were both listed as "key markets" despite ongoing tension between them.

3. Fifteen Christian leaders, including those mentioned above, signed a letter calling for DESO's closure which was published in the national media on 6th October 2006.

4. At 1.00pm on Monday, 16th October 2006, campaigners will form a human chain around DESO's headquarters in Bloomsbury Way, London WC1. This will be a peaceful and lawful demonstration.

5. On Tuesday, 17th October 2006, Camapign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) will publish the results of a poll on public awareness of DESO.

6. The Shut DESO campaign is supported by ACORD, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Burma Campaign, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Campaign Against Depleted Uranium, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, Conscience, Corporate Responsibility Coalition, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Green Party of England and Wales, Jesuit Refugee Service, Justice Not Vengeance, Landmine Action, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrats for Peace and Security, MedAct, Movement for the Abolition of War, One World Action, Oxford Research Group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Pax Christi, Peace Direct, Peace Pledge Union, Plaid Cymru, Progressio, Quaker Peace & Social Witness, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), SPEAK, TAPOL, UNA Wales, Waging Peace and War Resisters International.

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