Shut DESO – action needed


The Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) is a Government department employing about 500 civil servants dedicated to selling weapons around the world on behalf of arms companies – funded of course by taxpayers to the tune of more than £15million per year.  This year DESO celebrates its 40th birthday and yet it seems likely that around 88% of the population has never heard of it.


As part of its “call the shots” campaign to challenge the influence of arms companies on government policy, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is organising three months of action to raise public awareness and lobby MPs, in a push to get DESO closed down.  On Monday 16th October several members of KPC/CND joined 250 others to form a human chain around the offices of DESO in Bloomsbury Way in order to draw attention to this ‘Global Danger Zone’ and the deadly business being conducted in it.  Copies of a spoof free newspaper, The Holborn & Bloomsbury Messenger, were handed out to inform passers by.


After lunch pairs of protesters were assigned to different streets in central London to conduct an informal opinion poll.  Members of the public were asked “two quick questions ”:


1.      Have you heard of the Defence Export Services Organisation?

(if the answer was no, an explanation was given)

2.      Do you think public money should be spent in this way?


A majority of people claimed to be too busy to stop but CAAT did get around 700 replies, and it was these that suggest the very high degree of ignorance of DESO’s existence.  However, when the purpose of DESO was explained, 82% of respondents thought that public money should not be spent in this way with only 5% in support and 13% ‘don’t knows’.  If these figures are even roughly representative of the population as a whole, then it would seem that raising awareness would stand a good chance of leading to the demise of DESO, and this is where the action comes in.  Visit CAAT’s website for more information, talk to people about the issues and contact your MP.


The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and the Green Party are already convinced of the case for closure.  Charles Kennedy has tabled EDM 1798 calling on the Government to close DESO because “through DESO, the UK taxpayer subsidises the export of arms into areas of conflict and to governments that abuse human rights”.  He might also have pointed to the irony that while there is parliamentary backing for an international Arms Trade Treaty, a Government Department can boast that it is responsible for 75% of UK arms exports.   Of our local MPs, Edward Davey and Vincent Cable have already signed the EDM and I’m sure Susan Kramer needs only to be reminded.  It is probably a good idea though to email your MP even if (s)he has signed, to express support and keep the pressure up.


 Hilary Evans