16 thoughts on “British government helps selling weapons to Qatar dictatorship

  1. Friday 26th February 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    SOLOMON HUGHES reveals how arms giant Lockheed Martin could rely on the approval of lapdog ministers when seeking to supply Qatar’s brutal regime

    THE Foreign Office promised to “strongly support” arms firm Lockheed Martin’s plan to sell turrets for armoured fighting vehicles to the repressive Sheikdom of Qatar, according to papers I got under freedom of information.

    It is another sign of the Tories making the government into arms salesmen.

    The documents cover a January 2015 meeting between Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood and salesmen from Lockheed. Getting these internal papers takes an age, so we can mostly only find out what the government did, rather than what it is doing. The Foreign Office says Ellwood is responsible for the “Middle East and North Africa,” “counter-terrorism” and “defence and international security.” These documents show he has another responsibility — selling weapons to sheikhs.

    Lockheed asked to see Ellwood, sending its head of government affairs Christopher Williams. Lockheed’s man knows his way round Whitehall, having previously been a Cabinet Office private secretary; arms firms like to have staff with government experience.

    The papers say Lockheed want to sell some of their turrets, carrying guns or missiles, “which can fit on most vehicles, to the Qatari government.”

    The authoritarian Qatari sheikdom would definitely feel more secure with more weapons, and more able to spread its influence in the violently changing Middle East. Qatar is a major weapons supplier to the rebels in Syria, for example. The papers say the Foreign Office response is to “strongly support Lockheed Martin UK in their [redacted] bid.”

    In addition, Lockheed said it was bidding to replace all the turrets on British-made Warrior armoured vehicles sold to Kuwait in the 1990s. It also had a third bid for military work in the region. The redactions — bits of the document that are blanked out — make it hard to be sure about this bid, but it appears to be in Kuwait and involves some military training.

    The papers say Lockheed “was also involved in a bid for a [redacted]. They offer covered training as well as infrastructure, and would be worth around [redacted] per year. They stressed that this was also a good soft power opportunity, with Portsmouth University in particular benefitting from increased links between the two countries.”

    The documents say the government “is aware of Lockheed Martin UK’s requirement to formally sign the [redacted]. We continue to discuss Qatar’s training needs at senior levels.” So it seems the Foreign Office not only backed Lockheed’s Qatar bid, it also was interested in supporting Qatari military training — in part to help the arms firm.

    The British army trains Qatari officers at Sandhurst. The papers also note that UK Trade and Industry — a sales department run with the Department for Business — “also recognised this endorsement.” So the papers show the Foreign Office, Department for Business and potentially Ministry of Defence all working together.

    The Foreign Office mission is to “promote the United Kingdom’s interests overseas.” The Ministry of Defence is there to “protect the security, independence and interests of our country.” The Department for Business is “the department for economic growth.” But all three of these missions united in one goal — selling Lockheed’s weapons. This is just one small example about how the machinery of government is consistently mobilised to help one industry — the arms trade. Our “interests,” “security” and “economic growth” all become one thing — selling guns to sheikhs.

    Lockheed is a US firm, but its turret-making business is in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. At the end of the meeting Lockheed’s man invited the minister to see Lockheed’s cannon-and-rocket-carrying turrets at “the next firing in Qatar.” So for all the destabilising dangers of the arms trade, at least Ellwood might get a nice trip to the sunshine for a pyrotechnic display out of the deal.

    The EU debate is leading to some remarkable revelations

    In his “why I say Out” statement, Justice Secretary Michael Gove wrote that, thanks to the EU “whoever is in government in London cannot remove or reduce VAT, cannot support a steel plant through troubled times, cannot build the houses we need where they’re needed.”

    So it turns out Gove has all along wanted to build houses for the needy, protect steelworks and reduce shopping taxes, but couldn’t because of the EU.

    Which is surprising because most Tories hate building council houses, couldn’t give a toss about steelworks and have tended to put up consumer taxes just as they have reduced taxes on the rich.

    It is doubly surprising because so much of it isn’t true. Under EU rules, the government can reduce VAT — although not below 15 per cent. Gove voted for Osborne’s 2011 budget that increased VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, so shoppers can pay for the financial crisis.

    The EU puts no restriction at all on government housebuilding. There are “state aid” rules that limit how much European governments can help or subsidise industries. But public housing is classed as an exempt “service of general economic interest,” so the government can fund any amount of housebuilding for the needy.

    While previous governments have more or less solved housing crises by building hundreds of thousands of houses a year, Gove has sat by while his government built almost none of them. He was happy to watch rising house prices squeeze the less well-off. It was nothing to do with the EU.

    Gove does have some point about helping steel plants. “State aid” rules do make that more difficult. There are short-term fixes EU governments do take to help their steel industry, but long-term support is harder. However, Gove’s government has not been trying very hard to find ways around the EU rules, so the idea they were held back from doing more also seems fanciful.

    Tories making promises about more houses or lower consumer taxes or helping industry outside the EU are probably not telling the truth, as the EU didn’t stop them from doing these things in the first place.

    http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-0af9-Gunning-for-Support#.VtIENeZtc4A

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