G7 may curb arms sales to Third World

John Major is expected to demand radical action to limit arms sales to the Third World at this week's G7 summit in Lyons, which threatens to stop export credits to some of Britain's best customers.

Treasury sources said the Prime Minister will propose that export credit guarantees should not be given to countries with "excessive" military spending, which United Nations guidelines have defined as more than health and education combined.

Of Britain's top customers, Saudi Arabia spent half as much again on the military than on health and education in 1990-91, and Oman nearly three times as much. China spent 14 per cent more on the military than on health and education.

Last year, Britain granted pounds 543m of export credits to overseas borrowers - equivalent to more than one-tenth of its total pounds 5bn arms exports. The guarantee is given to a United Kingdom bank to enable it to extend credit to a foreign purchaser. Last year, China was the largest recipient of export credits, worth pounds 227m, and Saudi Arabia the second largest with pounds 225m.

Even though, in China's case, these credits related to non-military purchases, the proposed new rules, if strictly enforced, would have stopped them. However, much depends on how tightly the rules are drawn. Export credits might be denied when they relate to arms sales, for example, but not to other exports, and a country only spending a little more on the military than on health and education - like China - might be exempt. Obtaining recent comparisons is also difficult.

The World Development Movement, an independent think-tank, which has been pressing for limits on the arms trade and Third World debt, has estimated that since 1990 Britain has paid pounds 800m to underwrite arms sales which have not been paid for. Jessica Woodruffe, the head of campaigns, said: "Ideally we'd like to take this beyond excessive military spending and include repressive regimes as well."

Last year's G7 summit at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, suggested that one criteria for aid to non-G7 countries should be their "non-productive" expenditure - in other words, arms.

The UN Development Programme's 1994 report recommended no nation should spend more on its military than on health and education combined, and that the target reduction in military spending between 1995 and 2005 should be to 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Britain and France currently spend 3.1 per cent, the United States 3.9 per cent, while the highest spending Nato member is Greece, spending 4.6 per cent.

The Independent Group on Financial Flows to Developing Countries chaired by Helmut Schmidt, the former German Chancellor, recommended special aid should be given to countries spending less than 2 per cent of GDP in the security sector.

Charles Masefield, head of the Defence Export services Organisation (DESO), recently said Britain aimed to increase its share of a diminishing global arms export market from its present 19 per cent to 22 per cent by 2000. That way, Britain would maintain its current pounds 5bn annual arms exports. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Britain is the world's second largest arms exporter after the US.

Although Britain enjoys substantial earnings from arms exports, export credit guarantees mean that about one-fifth of those earnings are subsidised by the taxpayer. Ms Woodruffe said: "Export credits were being given to buyers - like Iraq, for example - long after it became apparent those debts weren't going to be repaid. The priority has got to be to stop the flow of arms to poor countries which can't afford them."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee