Guest post: Welfare not Warfare: the price of the world’s largest arms fair

This is a guest post by Kat Hobbs from Campaign Against the Arms Trade

Violence is an expensive business. Whether it’s the social cost of cutting welfare or the money you have to pay once dissent breaks out (as we’ve seen in the recent riots), cutting people’s lifelines by slashing spending on welfare and community services leads to social disorder.

Yet at the same time as their spending cuts are destroying the safety net for society’s most vulnerable people, the government is pouring millions into the arms trade.

Whilst there have been 40% cuts to university teaching budgets, and 60% cuts to social housing, the defence budget was cut by just 8%. The government spends more money buying arms from BAE Systems alone than it does on tackling climate change- equivalent to £64 a year for every adult and child in the UK.

Furthermore, according to figures obtained by Campaign Against Arms Trade, £700 million a year is spent on government subsidies to the arms trade. That’s around a £9000 subsidy for each job in the arms industry in Britain. As Alan Beattie said in the Financial Times, “You can have as many arms export jobs as you are prepared to waste public money subsidising.”

The UK Trade and Investment Department’s Defence and Security Organisation keeps a whole raft of civil servants busily employed on nothing other than promoting the deadly business of the arms trade. David Cameron’s entourage on his recent ‘democracy tour’ of the Middle East included eight arms dealers.

So instead of investing for our collective future, the government is wasting money, skills and expertise on weapons and warfare. These resources could be used to produce the things we really need- renewable energy, green technology, education and healthcare.

Next week UKTI will be co-hosting (along with Clarion Events, recently featured as ‘War Profiteer of the Month’ at War Resisters International) the world’s largest arms fair in Newham. While Newham- one of London’s poorest boroughs- undergoes over £100 million worth of cuts, the government is supporting an Arms Fair in the ExCel Centre.

On September 13th Defence and Security International will open its doors to over 25,000 buyers from across the world (regardless of their human rights record), selling everything from battleships to F16 fighter jets, small arms to unmanned-drones, microchips to armoured cars.

The Stop The Arms Fair coalition have called a day of action for September 13th, the first day of the fair. Join the action on the day in London, or organise locally against an arms company near you! We will be sending a clear message to the government – end the arms trade and stop the cuts, invest in welfare not warfare.