The Prime Minister David Cameron has again defended government promotion of arms sales by relying on grossly inflated and out-of-date jobs figures, while ignoring human rights concerns.

Dismissing critics as ‘squeamish’, Cameron justified the exports by again claiming 300,000 jobs depend on the defence industry. But:

  • This figure includes jobs dependent on UK military spending as well as exports
  • The figure is grossly inflated as it includes jobs dependent on non-equipment expenditure, for instance the cost of maintaining Ministry of Defence estates.
  • This figure is years out of date. Cameron’s figures are based on 2006/7 data – but jobs in the military sector have been on a steady decline. Even then, just 55,000 were directly or indirectly supported by arms exports.
  • UK taxpayers subsidise arms export jobs. Analysis carried out for CAAT by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), assesses the level of subsidy to be around £700 million per year.

Although the arms trade still employs a lot of skilled workers, such as engineers, these skills are needed in other industries. This was confirmed by a representative of the industry’s trade body A|D|S giving evidence to the Commons’ Defence Committee in September 2010: “… the skills that might be divested of a reducing defence industry do not just sit there waiting to come back. They will be mopped up by other industries that need such skills.”

CAAT spokesperson Sarah Waldron says, “David Cameron is using a grossly inflated and out-of date jobs figure to justify arms sales to authoritarian regimes. These jobs are the only way the government can rally public support for their immoral promotion of the arms trade. Cameron should stop acting as a salesman for the arms companies, and transfer the support currently given to the arms industry to other, growing sectors of the economy such as renewable energy.”

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