|ISSUE 51 SPRING 2006
|close the deso|
- a real champaign moment
‘Successive Customer Satisfaction Surveys of the UK defence industry revealed that over 75% of arms export orders would not have been achieved without the assistance of DESO’.
Then as now the Labour government faced two ways without any apparent discomfort. The Defence Secretary Denis Healey told Parliament that ‘While the Government attaches the highest importance to making progress in the field of arms control and disarmament, we must also take what practical steps we can to ensure that this country does not fail to secure its rightful share of this valuable commercial market’. Unconcerned by the contradictions in this statement, Healey proceeded to implement the findings of the Stokes Report and by July 1966, the 'central arms sales organisation' which Stokes had recommended was established in the Ministry of Defence. The unit became known as the Defence Sales Organisation and kept the name until 1985 when, with the completion of arms industry privatization, it was changed to the Defence Export Services Organisation. This was, apparently, a ‘more accurate reflection of its revised function’.
The DESO exists to sell arms for companies and to lobby for arms exports within government. It identifies potential opportunities for arms sales, then works with the companies and other elements of government to push for deals. DESO appears uninhibited by ongoing conflicts, human rights abuses, or pressing development needs. Nor is it motivated by international security or the 'defence' of the UK. It focuses purely on arms company sales and profits. DESO acts as a state-sponsored marketing department for arms companies, but its importance goes far beyond that. Its position and role within Whitehall means that the arms industry's vested interests are relentlessly promoted across government.
Through DESO, the UK taxpayer subsidises the export of arms into areas of conflict and to governments that abuse human rights. The trade in military equipment also damages economic development at each of global, regional and local economic levels.
Time to close the DESO