Activists call on Treasury to reduce arms spending

11 April 2011
Die-in at Treasury

On Tuesday morning, 12 April, anti-arms trade activists will demonstrate outside the Treasury Building to protest against high military spending, including support for arms exports. The demonstration is organised by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) to highlight the first Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) which will see events around the globe.

The London protest will contrast the relatively light curbs on military spending (some of which are likely to be reversed) to the much heavier cuts in other areas, including health, education, welfare and housing. While Ministry of Defence budgets were cut by only 8 per cent over four years, other departmental cutbacks averaged 18 per cent. Protesters will compare the costs of arms and the military to the amounts spent on nurses and teachers - some of whom are threatened with redundancy in the financial cutbacks.

The protest will also highlight the largely hidden subsidies that the government passes on to the arms industry, including taxpayer-funded research and development (R&D), government sponsored insurance, and trade promotion through UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO). Total subsidies are estimated to be in the vicinity of £500 million a year. All this for an industry which employs just 0.2 per cent of the UK workforce and is responsible for less than 1.5 per cent of UK exports.

GDAMS sees the release of world military expenditure by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). It estimates that in 2010 military expenditure reached 1,630 billion US dollars, an increase of 1.3 per cent in real terms. As previously, the US continues to be the largest military spender with 43 per cent of the global total (4.3% of the US Gross National Product) . Although recession and financial cutbacks had lowered military spending in many countries, it increased in many countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Ian Pocock from London CAAT says:

It is shocking that the government continues spend big on arms and the military even as it cuts back on social welfare. This is not OK. We want to see a fundamental shift in the UK government's spending priorities, away from arms spending towards more ethical and beneficial areas, and an end to government promotion of arms exports.

The demonstration will take place outside the Treasury main entrance at 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1, on Tuesday 12 April, from 8.30am-9.30am.

ENDS

For further information please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email media(at)caat·org·uk. Photos will be available from CAAT.

NOTES

  1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. Around 80% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
  2. The Global Day of Action on Military Spending is supported by peace and anti-militarist groups worldwide. In addition to the Treasury protest, CAAT is calling upon its supporters to protest through its "This is NOT OK" campaign petition and to tweet the Treasury alternative spending plans.
  3. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) monitors developments in military expenditure worldwide. Military expenditire refers to all government spending on current military forces and activities, including arms spending.
  4. UK Trade & Investment has approximately 142 staff to support 34 industry sectors. In 2008, it opened the Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) to promote arms exports. UKTI now employs 180 civil servants to sell arms, which represent only 1.5% of exports.
  5. Members of the government have aggressively promoted arms exports. Peter Luff, Defence Equipment Minister, has said: "There will be a very, very, very heavy ministerial commitment to (arms sales). There is a sense that in the past we were rather embarrassed about exporting defence products. There is no such embarrassment in this Government." Gerald Howarth, International Security Strategy Minister, said in November 2010: "This government has been very clear from the outset and so have I: we are proud to support the biggest defence exports drive in decades." David Cameron was accompanied on his visit to the Middle East in February by the representatives of eight arms companies but insisted the UK "has nothing to be ashamed of."
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