Sunday, December 26, 2004

Arms Trade Duplicity

Following my earlier post on the unethical practices of the British firm, Alvis, in offering inducements to Suharto's daughter comes the disturbing news that arms manufacturers are seeking to bypass the Freedom of Information Act. Originally, the terms of the act would have offered some much-needed transparency and oversight of arms deals. But as The Guardian report makes clear arms companies plan to write legally enforceable confidentiality agreements into their dealings with Whitehall and are preparing "injunction packages" with which to threaten officials. The duplicity of the British government is clear for all to see:
The Ministry of Defence wrote to arms firms this month, promising them a virtual veto and "the opportunity to seek a legal remedy" before files are disclosed. The government has also bowed to commercial pressures by deleting guidance to officials.
The arms manufacturers themselves, of course, are claiming that the exemption is necessary
to protect trade secrets from competitors. But there were already safeguards written into the original act. The scope for evasion and more dirty deals is all too obvious. The Campaign Against Arms Trade is working for "the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade, together with progressive demilitarisation within arms-producing countries". It deserves your support.

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