Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Arms Sales: Tax-Funded Dealers

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Arms Sales: Tax-Funded Dealers

Article excerpt

After more than 40 years of promoting British weapons makers, the government's controversial arms sales division--the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO)--is expected to be disbanded after a Treasury review concluded that taxpayers should no longer subsidise an "anachronistic" department with too much influence in Whitehall.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act offer an insight into the world-view of a body which spends [pounds sterling]15m yearly helping British arms firms to sell around [pounds sterling]5bn of equipment to countries ranging from Colombia to Saudi Arabia.

They reveal that in March, behind the closed doors of the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, senior members of the defence industry attending DESO's annual symposium were briefed on how factors as diverse as climate change and nuclear terrorism are set to create new opportunities for the arms trade.

DESO's director, Malcolm Haworth, touched on how the price of oil "can significantly affect our business", with high prices recently benefitting key markets, especially in the Middle East. Haworth also noted that the American defence budget was growing--"Exactly the right environment for those seeking opportunities in the US."

Overall, Britain captures about 20 per cent of global arms exports, largely through Saudi sales, although market share has been under pressure due to rival campaigns by France, Israel, the US and, increasingly, Russia. But Haworth reminded listeners of the ace in the UK arms trade's hand: Britain's military. …

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