24 November 2008
Civil servants warned over arms dealers operating from their offices
Civil servants working at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a department responsible for promoting exports, will this morning be warned about arms dealers working in their offices. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is highlighting the fact that government staff responsible for arms sales promotion have been moved into UKTI, whose employees will now have to share resources and offices with a unit facilitating arms deals.
CAAT supporters will peacefully hand leaflets to UKTI's staff as they arrive for work this morning in Victoria Street, London SW1. They will ask them "Do you know where your colleagues are this week?". UKTI arms promotion staff are at the IDEAS arms fair in Pakistan. IDEAS has frequently welcomed representatives of oppressive regimes including Burma, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia.
CAAT's core campaign co-ordinator Sarah Waldron said:
"By assisting private companies to sell arms, UKTI will do nothing to help global stability, national security or the UK's reputation in the world. Arms make up less than 2% of UK exports, but take up as many UKTI staff as all civil industry-specific sectors combined. This is outrageous at a time when civil industry is so desperately in need of support."
While protesting outside the UKTI offices, a number of CAAT campaigners will pose as civil servants carrying weapons. Photographs will be available.
The action follows the launch of the campaign UKTI: Armed and Dangerous at CAAT's annual National Gathering on 8th November. This came after the success in April of CAAT's campaign for the closure of the highly controversial Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a unit of the Ministry of Defence which had operated as a "one-stop shop" for arms companies' dealings with government. DESO's closure led to responsibility for arms sales promotion moving to UKTI.
1. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. 80% of CAAT's funding comes from individual supporters' donations. CAAT is strictly nonviolent in all its work.
2. CAAT's action this morning, which will be entirely peaceful, will take place from 8.30am at the UKTI's offices at Kingsgate House, 66-74 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6SW. CAAT will not act confrontationally towards UKTI staff.
3. Responsibility for arms promotion was moved into UKTI on 1st April 2008, following the closure of the controversial Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a unit of the Ministry of Defence. CAAT and other groups had long called for DESO to be shut, arguing that it gave arms companies an easy channel of undemocratic influence on ministers and that its position entailed a collection of conflicts of interest. DESO's closure resulted in strong complaints by the heads of BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. The arms sales promotion unit within UKTI is known as the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO).
4. Spokespeople for CAAT are available for interview.
5. Photographs of this morning's action will be available on request
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